The Seizure of Power (Machtergreifung)
This chapter covers the first eighteen months of the Third Reich from January 1933 through August 1934. The story begins with the early reactions to the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. The first document is from the diary of a young novelist and plawrite, who was a determined anti-Nazi.
After I parked the car, I bought a copy of the paper. Huge headlines: Adolf Hitler Chancellor. My heart skipped a beat. So it has happened.... As if I had been clubbed about the head, I walked down the stairs to meet the train. It seemed to me that a dark shadow has now fallen over the world, as if something horrible, something irrevocable, something fateful has occurred.
Why am I so shaken by this news? We have surely seen it coming. Many indeed thought it was unavoidable; many and these are not necessarily the worst Germans will now be jubilant. Why is my heart so heavy? A ferocious fear seizes me. Not a fear for myself or my famil; this fear is deeper. It is a fear for Germany, for her mission, for her future.
Perhaps my information about this new chancellor is too sparse and that distorted by election campaigns. But I cannot believe that everything which the newspapers I read say about him and his followers is lies. And if only a tenth of what they've written is true, then woe to poor Germany!. . .
Mother's festive lunch, including appetizers, is little noticed. She herself is most upset over Hitler's appointment. All her hatred for this "vagabond house painter" is now renewed. Her passionate rejection of the Nazis is completely emotional, based on a woman's intuition. She seeks no other grounds. ... "Six week," she cries excitedó ly, "it won't last longer than that." My father is skeptical: "This does not appear to be a cabinet like the others, which one day will simply resign." "But they will have to, when they no longer have a majority supporting them?" asks mother.
"Even today they do not have a majority behind them. They don't even claim that themselves. I believe they will remain," says my father very slowly, "until their political base crumbles." "Then we will certainly not have to wait a long time," mother inserts. "I wonder if I will live to see the day," my father said softly. "I don't believe so."
I was terrified, for suddenly I felt the truth of his presentment. It became very quiet at that moment. We four, the two old white-haired people and the two young men, Klaus and I, sank into silence. And then suddenly I said something quite dumb, said it without even thinking. "It will last until after the next lost war!" Everyone laughed.
Ebermayer's family, however, was not typical. Frau Luise Solmitz, a housewife and former elementary school teacher, who lived in Hamburg, reflected in her enthusiastic accounts of the first day of the new government a more characteristic note. What makes this entry so unusual, however, is that Luise was married to an ex-pilot and decorated war hero, who was Jewish.
[In Hamburg] a torchlight parade of National Socialists and Steel Helmets [the political organization of veterans] A wonderfully uplifting experience for us all. Gring says that the naming of Hitler and a cabinet of national concentration was like the Spirit of 1914, and today's parade was like that too....
Last Sunday Gisela [their 14 year old daughter] saw it; the Reds held their demonstration and tried to enlarge their parade by adding women and children, and they were forced to march through the mud of a bitter rain storm. Indeed today the Socialists and the Red Front must operate by using obligatory participation.
But today the weather was beautiful. Dry, without any wind, and somewhat warmer than usual. At 9:30 p.m. we took up our positions, Gisela with us. I said that she could remain until the end, for up to now the children have had such a miserably bad impression of all things political that I thought they, and we too, should experience a strong national demonstration that would offset all that other stuff and remain with us as a treasured memory. And this is what happened! It was close to 10 before the first marchers passed us, and then there followed, like waves in the ocean, more than 20,000 Brown Shirts, their enthusiastic faces lit by the flames of the torches. "Three Cheers for our Fhrer, our Chancellor, Adolf Hitler," and they chanted: "The Republic is shit" and sang out the colors "Black-Red-and-Mustard." Others sang "Murdered at Sterneschanz." Dreckmann had been murdered there, and by chance I spied his name writtó en on a banner, perhaps one that was carried by the section he belonged to. All the banners and symbols seemed almost Roman.
Then came the Steel Helmets, a gray flood, quieter, more thoughtful perhaps. They carried our old flag, Black-White-Red, each crowned in the black crepe of mourning. Franz (her husband) lifted his hat every time one of the flags passed, and across the way four young Hitler Youths were standing and they greeted every Steel Helmet flag and leader by raising their hands. How beautiful and impressive to see that the quarrel between brothers, which has so depressed us, has now been set aside! What has happened tonight is the way it should and must remain.
Between the SA groups and the Steel Helmets there marched some representatives of the nationalistic student organizations.... At the conclusion of the parade came the SS.
We were drunk with enthusiasm, blinded from the lights of the torches which passed before our faces, and completely surrounded most times by the smoke which swirled around as like a sweet cloud of incense. And before us marched men, men and more men, brown-shirted, colored student outfits [of the fraternities], grey uniforms, and then more brown shirts, a flood lasting an hour and twenty minutes. In the blinking lights of the torches all the faces seemed the same, endlessly repeating, but there were in fact between 22 and 25,000 different individuals there.
Next to us stood a young boy of about three, who constantly raised his tiny hand saying "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler man!" ... When all the marchers had passed, it still was not over, for after the last SS groups, the harmlessly rejoicing crowd joined in and formed their own parade, celebrating the joy of the moment....
Unity, finally, finally, and how long will it last?! But the important thing is that we all now realize that we are only Germans. What must Hitler be feeling when he sees 100,000 people marching along, a crowd which he has called into being, into which he has breathed, or once again awakened, a national soul, people who are ready to die for him. And the people are not only saying this as a ritual, but in bitter seriousness....
An SA man this morning said to Gisela: "Now it is no longer a question of saying 'Heil Hitler,' but rather of saying 'Heil Deutschland'." "Down with the Jews" was also shouted out from time to time, and they sang about Jewish blood spurting form the knife wounds.
[Post-war addition by Frau Solmitz, at this point in the diary: "Whoever took such sayings seriously at the time."]
The first official action of the new government was to issue a proclamation. It was carefully composed by Vice-Chancellor [and former Chancellor] Franz von Papen, approved by Hitler, and did not seem very disturbing.
31 January 1933 Appeal by the Government of National Concentration to the German People
More than fourteen years have passed since the unhappy day when the German people, blinded by promises from foes at home and abroad, lost touch with honor and freedom, thereby losing everything. Since that day of treachery [the Revolution of 1918/19], the Almighty has withheld His blessing from our people. Dissension and hatred descended upon us. With profound distress millions of the best Germans, from all walks of life, have seen the unity of the nation vanish, dissolving in a confusion of political and personal opinions, economic interests and ideological differences.... We never received the equality and fraternity we had been promised, and we lost our liberty to boot. For when our nation lost its political place in the world, it soon lost its unity of spirit and will....
The misery of our people is horrible to behold! Millions of the industrial proletariat are unemployed and starving; the whole of the middle class and small artisans have been impoverished. When this collapse finally reaches the German peasants, we will be faced with a catastrophe of vast proportions. For then not only shall a Reich collapse, but a two-thousand-year-old inheritance, some of the loftiest products of human culture and civilization.
All around us are symptoms portending this breakdown. With an unparalleled effort of will and of brute force the Communist method of madness is trying as a last resort to poison and undermine an inwardly shaken and uprooted nation.. It seeks to poison and disrupt in order to hurl us into an epoch of chaos.... This negative, destroying spirit spares nothing of all that is highest and most valuable. Beginning with the family, it has undermined the very foundations of morality and faith and scoffs at culture and business, nation and Fatherland, justice and honor. Fourteen years of Marxism have ruined Germany [i.e. the Socialist Party of the Weimar Republic]; one year of Bolshevism would destroy her. The richest and fairest territories of the world would be turned into a smoking heap of ruins. Even the sufferings of the last decade and a half could not be compared to the misery of a Europe in the heart of which the red flag of destruction had been hoisted. The thousands of wounded, the hundreds of dead which this inner strife has already cost Germany should be a warning of the storm which would come....
In those hours when our hearts were troubled about the life and the future of the German nation, the aged leader of the World War [i.e. President Hindenburg] appealed to us. He called to those of us in nationalist parties and leagues to struggle under him once more, in unity and loyalty, for the salvation of the German nation. This time the front lines are at home. The venerable Reichspresident has allied himself with us in this noble endeavor. And as leaders of the nation and the national Government we vow to God, to our conscience, and to our people that we will faithfully and resolutely fulfill the task conferred upon us.
An appalling inheritance has fallen to the Government of National Concentration as it takes over. The task with which we are faced is the hardest which has fallen to German statesmen within the memory of man. But we are all filled with unbounded confidence for we believe in our people and their imperishable virtues. Every class and every individual must help us to found the new Reich.
The Government of National Concentration will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of our nation and our state.... It will therefore declare merciless war on spiritual, political, and cultural nihilism. Germany must not and will not sink into Communist anarchy.... Turbulent instincts must be replaced by a national discipline as the guiding principle of our national life. All those institutions which are the strongholds of the energy and vitality of our nation will be taken under the special care of the Government.
The Government of National Concentration intends to solve the problem of the reorganization of trade and commerce with two four-year plans: The German farmer must be rescued in order that the nation may be supplied with the necessities of life... A concerted and all-embracing attack must be made on unemployment in order that the German working class may be saved from ruin....
The November parties [i.e. Catholics, liberals, Socialists associated with the founding of the Republic in the November 1918 Revolution] have ruined the German peasantry in fourteen years. In fourteen years they have created an army of millions of unemployed. The Government of National Concentration will, with iron determination and unshakable steadfastness of purpose, put through the following plan: Within four years the German peasant must be rescued from the quagmire into which he has fallen. Within four years unemployment must be finally overcome. Parallel with this, and as the prerequisite for the recovering of the economy, we will combine this gigantic project of restoring the economy with the task of putting the administration and the finances of the Federal Government, the States, and the Municipalities on a sound fiscal basis.... Only when this has been accomplished can the idea of a continued federal existence of the entire Reich be fully realized....
Compulsory labor-service and a back-to-the-land policy are two of the basic principles of this program. The securing of the necessities of life will include the performance of social duties to the sick and aged. In economical administration, the promotion of employment, the preservation of the farmer, as well as in the exploitation of individual initiative, the Government sees the best guarantee for the avoidance of any experiments which would endanger the currency....
As regards its foreign policy the Government of National Concentration considers its highest mission to be the securing of the right to live and the restoration of freedom to our nation. Its determination to bring to an end the chaotic state of affairs in Germany will assist in restoring to the community of nations a State of equal value and, above all, a State which must have equal rights. It is impressed with the importance of its duty to use this notion of equal rights as an instrument for the securing and maintenance of that peace which the world requires today more than ever before. May the good will of all others assist in the fulfillment of this our earnest wish for the welfare of Europe and of the whole world.
Great as is our love for our Army as the bearer of our arms and the symbol of our great past, we should be happy if the world, by reducing its armaments, would see to it that we need never increase our own.
If, however, Germany is to experience this political and economic revival and conscientiously fulfill her duties toward the other nations, one decisive step is absolutely necessary first: We must overcome the demoralization of Germany by the Communists.
We of this Government feel responsible to German history for the restoration of orderly life in the nation and for the final elimination of class madness and class struggle. We recognize no classes, we see only the German people, millions of peasants, bourgeoisie, and workers who will either overcome together the difficulties of these times or be overcome by them. We are firmly resolved and we have taken our oath. Since the present Reichstag is incapable of lending support to this work, we ask the German people, whom we represent, to perform the task themselves.
Reichspresident von Hindenburg has called upon us to bring about the revival of the German nation. Unity is our tool. Therefore we now appeal to the German people to support this reconciliation. The Government of National Concentration wishes to work and it will work. WE did not ruin the German nation for fourteen years, but now WE will lead the nation back to health. WE are determined to make well in four years, the ills of fourteen years. The Marxist parties and their lackeys have had fourteen years to show what they can do. The result is a heap of ruins.
Now, people of Germany, give us four years and then pass judgment upon us. In accordance with Field Marshal von Hindenburg's command we shall begin now. May God Almighty give our work His blessing, strengthen our purpose, and endow us with wisdom and the trust of our people, for we are fighting not for ourselves but for Germany.
The cabinet Hitler joined was strongly balanced against him. In addition to Hitler, the Nazis had only two cabinet positions, Wilhelm Frick (Interior) and Hermann Gring (without Portfolio). Alfred Hugenberg of the Conservative DNVP was given two positions. (Economics and Agriculture), both of which he decided to hold himself. Former Chancellor and ex-Center Party member Franz von Papen, of course, was Vice-Chancellor. The rest of the cabinet were non-party experts: Constantin Baron von Neurath (Foreign Affairs); General Werner Baron von Blomberg (Defense); Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk (Finance); Franz Grtner (Justice); Franz Seldte of the Steel Helmets (Labor); Paul Baron Eltz von Rbenach (Transportation); and Gunther Gereke (Employment). Papen was confident that he could control the situation, and the first few weeks seemed to confirm this prediction.
I experienced much less difficulty than I had expected in formulating a coalition program. Hitler thought the moral regeneration of the nation to be our principal task. He suggested that economic reconstruction should be accomplished in two four-year plans, and mentioned, for the first time, the necessity of passing an Enabling Law for this purpose. I thought a four-year-plan sounded too much like Soviet methods, but agreed that a set program was necessary. For my part, I laid down those lines of conservative thought which I considered should serve as a framework for our policies and suggested one or two phrases: "The Government recognizes the Christian basis of moral existence and regards the family as the basic unit in the nation, requiring the particular protection of the State." We agreed to strengthen the federal structure of the country by promoting healthy State and Municipal Government, while maintaining sound central direction. In the field of foreign affairs, the Government intended to strive for equal rights in the community of nations, "fully aware of the responsibilities of a great and free nation in the maintenance and consolidation of peace, more necessary to the world than ever before." Hitler gave full approval to these declarations, to which we added the suggestion that a general reduction in armaments would do away with the necessity for any increase in our own.
Later, Papen was to admit that he had made a horrible mistake in his calculations: "My own fundamental error was to underrate the dynamic power which had awakened the national and social instincts of the masses." (Memoirs, 256).
Evidence of this awakened spirit were soon apparent to any who wanted to see it.
Yesterday was the first Huge-Massive-Monster- Rally in the Berlin ÒSportspalast˙
since the "Uprising" [the new Nazi term for Hitler's appointment as chancellor]. The event was carried live on all the radio stations. The Fhrer opens the election campaign! Goebbels spoke first and with extreme cleverness described the atmosphere of the mass gathering. Hitler was received with a storm of applause. Then he delivered a speech that covered recent history and soared into a fever pitch that carried all before it. Clearly the man thrives on the tasks that lie before him. At the conclusion he actually started to pray, and ended with the word "Amen!" Exactly the right mixture for his listeners: brutality, threats, flaunting of power, and then humility before the oft-cited "all-Powerful." The masses in the ˙Sportspalast˙ were driven into ecstasy.
The rally which, as Goebbels stated, was broadcast to twenty or thirty million Germans by the radio, is doubtlessly a great success for Hitler. Today what an instrument for mass-propaganda is the radio! And how little have Hitler's opponents made use of it till now! It is almost as it there simply were no radio before 30 January. Inconceivable! The poor God-forsaken parties of the middle class, how easily they let their power be snatched from their hands! Perhaps their hands were really not competent and worthy of holding power? Doubts pile upon doubts during these sleepless hours of the night....
And meanwhile, the Nazis are daily beginning more to show their fists. Minister President [the German term for Governor] Noske in Hanover and a whole series of other "Socialist Bosses" have been removed by Gring....
In the evening I sat down with Max Brockhaus the music publisher, Dr. Bumke President of the Supreme Court, Professor Thiemann the director of the Art Academy, and Anton Klippenberg the publishe -- rall of them experienced, clever men, whose ironic reserve toward the new government does one good, but I would much prefer to have seen some passionate opposition. The talk was about Bruno Walter. In general they appear convinced that Hitler's anti-Semitic program, even if it is ever put into practice, would certainly not extend to the great artistic and intellectual personalities, if for no other reason than to avoid unfavorable response from abroad. The government will certainly prevent the further migration into Germany of Jews from the East, but for the past year or two other administrations have done the same thing and perhaps this government will expel the East-Jews now in Germany. But no one expects more than that. Bruno Walter will certainly, no matter what else happens, preserve his positions. Bumke also has no fears for the personnel of the judicial system. Whatever Jews are in the court system have long ago been baptized and even these are only a small percentage....
In practical terms, the mistake was to consider the apparatus of the State sufficiently intact and independent to assert itself, under Conservative leadership, against the propaganda methods and machinery of the Nazi movement. What had happened was that the long years of party warfare had undermined the apparatus [of the State], though none of us realized how far the process had gone.
If Conservatives were becoming aware of their powerlessness, the years had also undermined the ability of the Left to resist. Bedeviled by a split between Communists and Social Democrats, and with their Trade Unions weakened by three years of mass unemployment, the prospects for a general strike such as had defeated the Kapp putsch in 1920 were not encouraging. Nevertheless, the Communist Party issued a call for a General Strike on the day the new cabinet was announced:
The bloody, barbaric, Fascist reign of terror has been erected in Germany. Masses, do not let this deadly enemy of the German Volk, this deadly enemy of workers and poor peasants, of all workers in cities and in the countryside, carry out its criminal actions! Arm yourselves against the blows and terror of the Fascist counter-revolution! Defend yourselves against the limitless social reaction of the fascist dictatorship!
Onto the streets! Close down the factories. Answer at once the blows of the Fascist bloodhounds with a Strike, a mass strike, a general strike!
Men and women of the working class, young workers too, give out the call for a general strike, in all of your factories, bureaus, in all your workers' organizations, in the unemployment lines, a General Strike against the fascist dictatorship. Fix yourselves on laying down work! Fix yourselves on mass demonstrations! Vote for united front committees and strike leadership! Organize the fight!
But such calls were not popular. And the Socialist Party appeal of the same day took quite a different approach.
31 January 1933 Appeal of the SPD Executive Committee and SPD Reichstag Faction : Workers! Republicans!
The Harzburg Front has been resurrected in the Hitler-Papen-Hugenberg cabinet. The enemies of the working class, who were attacking each other savagely only a few days ago, have joined together in a common attack upon the working class, and in a reactionary mega-capitalist and mega-agricultural concentration. The hour demands unity of the entire working population in order to fight against this newly united enemy. It demands readiness to put into action the last and most extreme strength.
We carry out our fight on the basis of the Constitution, and will defend by employing all means every attack upon the political and social rights of the people which are guaranteed in that Constitution and in the laws. Every attempt by this government to use or establish its powers against the Constitution will be met with the most extreme resistance of the working class and all elements of the population who love freedom.
Undisciplined activities of individual organizations, or groups operating on their own initiative, will only bring heavy damage to the united working class. Therefore remain united in the Iron Front! Follow only its orders! The watchwords of the hour are: Bravery, determination, discipline, unity and once again unity.
Many Socialists assumed their party would survive persecution even as it had under Bismarck, while others worried about choosing the right moment to resist. The new Government had, after all, been installed according to the letter of the Constitution and, at least so far, had operated legally, so the SPD leadership in particular feared being provoked into unconstitutional actions which would only give the new Government the excuse it needed to crush the movement with legal violence
Although some rank and file members wanted to resist the regime by force of arms, the SPD leadership had for so long been accustomed to working peaceful and legally with the constitutional government, they were temperamentally unó suited to lead a campaign of violent resistance, particularly after the demoralizing political experience of the previous three years. Many of these considerations dominated the emergency meeting called by the SPD Executive Committee.
5 February 1933 Minutes of the SPD Executive Committee Meeting with Representatives of the Free Trade Unions
Wels [SPD] declares that he summoned the meeting with representatives of the Trade Unions to discuss what measures of defense should be taken. There are repeated enquiries from the factories as to when they should stop work. The comrades had been calmed down but there have been a lot of discussion in the factories about a united front [with the Communists]. Arrests and newspaper bans were increasing and there was the danger that some particular incident might start the ball rolling... We know that we are far from being anxious and from acting rashly, but we have to come to an agreement about what might have to be done. If there were a General Strike, then there would be no question of elections. being held. If the avalanche starts, we must try to guide it into our channels...
Leipart [Trade Union leader]...He had to raise the question of what our aim would be in a general strike. Those workers who were now employed would be afraid of losing their jobs. There would, therefore, not be much enthusiasm for a General Strike. They would, however, probably follow our call.
Then one should bear in mind that the Nazis were in a strong position with their SA which would probably occupy the factories in the event of a strike. If the only goal we could proclaim was: We're calling a general strike to re-establish constitutional conditions. That would probably not be enough and it is questionable whether we would have any other slogans.
And even if the Communist workers joined in, there would still be a certain split in the movement because we would be fighting for the Constitution and the Comó munists against it... He came ...to the conclusion that we should still wait until an open breach of the Constitution has occurred.
Stampfer [SPD]...He is not so opposed to a limited General Strike of about a day. But that will only be possible if there is a prior agreement with the Communists. We will then have to tell them straight out that our aim is not the establishment of a Soviet Germany.
Grassmann [SPD] considers that if we were to follow Stampfer's advice we might as well pack it up. Nothing at all would come of a discussion with the Communists...
Wels: The discussion has shown that our views are in complete agreement and that everyone is of the opinion that we must put ourselves at the head of the movement.
Hermann Gring was determined to prevent any such development. Although not given a ministry in the Federal Government, Gring had been appointed Minister of the Interior in the State of Prussia (which comprised nearly 2/3's of Germany). As Minister of the Interior, Gring controlled the Police of Prussia, and in the absence of a Federal Police, the Prussian Police were essentially the German police force. He was quick to swing into action.
I believe that it is unnecessary to point out specifically that the police must in all circumstances avoid giving even the appearance of a hostile attitude, still less the impression of persecuting the patriotic associations [i.e. the Nazi Storm Troopers and the Steel Helmets]. I expect rather that all police authorities seek out and maintain the best relations with these organizations which comprise the most important constructive forces of the State. Patriotic activities and propaganda are to be supported by every means. Police restrictions and impositions must be used only in the most urgent cases.
The activities of subversive organizations are, on the other hand, to be combated with the most drastic methods. Communist terrorist acts and attacks are to be proceeded against with all severity, and weapons must be used ruthlessly when necessary. Police officers, who in the execution of this duty, use their firearms will be supported by me without regard to the effect of their shots; on the other hand, officers who fail from a false sense of consideration may expect disciplinary measures.
The protection of the patriotic population which has been continually hampered in their activities, demands the most drastic application of legal regulations against banned demonstrations, illegal assemblies, lootings, instigation to treason and sedition, mass strikes, risings, press offenses, and the other punishable acts of the disturbers of order.
Every state official must constantly bear in mind that failure to act is more serious than errors committed in acting. I expect and hope that all officers feel themselves at one with me in the aim of saving our fatherland from the ruin which threatens it by strengthening and unifying the patriotic forces.
The real issue, however, was the forthcoming Reichstag elections. Hitler was determined to gain an absolute majority, and he kicked off the campaign with a fund-raising conference with leading industrialists.
[Hitler said] It is not enough to say: "We do not want Communism in our economy." If we continue on our old political course, then we shall perish. We have fully experienced in the past years that economics and politics cannot be separated. The political conduct of the struggle is the primary, decisive factor. Therefore, politically clear conditions must be reached.
As economics alone had not made the German Reich, so politics did not make economics. But each one built steadily upon the other. Just as politics and economics, working hand in hand brought us to the top, so the working of one against the other, as we have experienced it since the revolution, meant our continuous decline. As I lay in the hospital in 1918, I experienced the revolution in Bavaria. From the very beginning, I saw it as a crisis in the development of the German people, as a period of transition. Life always tears humanity apart. It is, therefore, the noblest task of a leader to find ideals that are stronger than the factors which pull people apart. I recognized, even while in the hospital, that new ideas must be sought which are conducive to reconstruction. I found them in Nationalism....
Now we are facing the last elections. No matter what the outcome, there will be no retreat, even if the coming election does not bring about a decision. If the election does not decide, the decision must be brought about in one way or another by other means. I have decided to give the people once more the chance of deciding their fate for themselves. This move is a strong asset for whatever may happen later. If the election brings no result, well, Germany will not be ruined.
Today, as never before, everyone is under an obligation to pledge themselves to success. The need to make sacrifices has never been greater than now. As for the economy, I have only one wish that together with the internal political structure, it may look forward to a calm future. The question of the restoration of the armed forces will not be decided at [the Disarmament Conference in] Geneva, but in Germany, when we have gained internal strength through internal peace. There will, howó ever, be no internal peace until Marxism is eliminated. Here lies the decision which we must face up to, hard as the struggle may be. I put my life into this struggle day after day, as do all those who have joined me in it. There are only two possibilities: either to resist the opponent by constitutional means, for this purpose, once again, the election is necessary; or the struggle will be conducted with other weapons, which may demand greater sacrifices. I would like to see them avoided. I hope therefore that the German people recognize the greatness of the hour. It will be decisive for the next ten or probably even the next hundred years. It will prove a turning-point in German history, to which I pledge myself with burning energy.
Backed by the awesome power of the State, and with several million Reichsmarks raised from the industrialists he had so bluntly addressed, Hitler unleashed a propaganda campaign which he was persuaded would win his party an absolute majority. But surprisingly, and despite the pressures daily being produced by official and party organizations, an equally strong campaign was waged by the anti-Nazi ˙
What has taken place in our country since the elections last March [the re-election of President Hindenburg, 13 March 1932] is nothing less than national corruption....
We seek in vain, among the measures and composition of the new Federal Government for any evidence supporting the renewal of our people in a Christian or Nationalist sense.... Rather, we see confirmed [the truth of the statement]: Bolshevism can also exist under a nationalist facade.
Unhappy with this continued opposition, on 22 February, Herman Gring ordered contingents of the SA and SS to be added to the Prussian Police, to strengthen that institution. This move, coupled with the brutal actions taken by local SA units against enemies, intimidated large numbers of Germans.
24 February 1933 Letter of Albert Grzesinski (former SPD Berlin Police Chief) to SPD Secretaries in Dortmund, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Kiel
Dear Comrades: The incidents of the past few days in the meetings of those comrades, who might be called prominent, have prompted the SPD Party committee this morning to examine the question whether, in the interests of our audiences, it would not be better to withdraw these speakers, of which I am one, for the time being. Several of my meetings have been disrupted and a considerable section of the audience had to be taken away badly injured. In agreement with the Party committee, I therefore request the cancellation of meetings with me as speaker. As things are, there is obviously no longer any police protection sufficient to check the aggressive actions of the SA and SS at my meetings.
In the city of Hindenburg, Comrade Nolting barely escaped being killed. I had a similar experience in Langenbielau. One of my companions was knocked down. In Breslau last night a terrible disaster was only prevented by the chance delay of SA formations which had been mobilized. Nonetheless, a great number were injured, and in a city which has so far been able to prevent the disruption of meetings by our opponents....
The open terror threatened particularly card-carrying members who held civil-service jobs.
I hereby return my membership card and signify my resignation from the Party. I am and remain a faithful socialist! Under the pressure of circumstances, the SPD, even against its will, will be pushed aside and into the methods of left-wing radicalism. On the other hand, pressure from the opposite side will grow. The only thing left for me to do in all conscience as a teacher, a Christian, and a German is to try to evade the double pressure and, as ten years ago, try to live for my job, my family and my books, without being a member of a party. Yours faithfully, GEORGE M
In this atmosphere of terror, Hitler received a lucky break. On 27 February, a week before the election, the Reichstag building was set on fire and a young Dutch Communist named Martinus van der Lubbe was caught apparently red-handed in the building. A contemporary witness was the police chief in charge of the investigation, Rudolf Diels, the head of the Prussian political police soon to become known as the GESTAPO. In his post-war memoirs, he recalled what happened that night, when he reported to his new boss, Hermann Gring, the Prussian Minister of the Interior:
When I pushed my way into the burning building with Schneider, we had to climb over the bulging hoses of the Berlin fire brigade, although, as yet, there were few onlookers. A few officers of my department were already engaged in interrogating Martinus van der Lubbe. Naked from the waist upwards, smeared with dirt and sweating, he sat in front of them, breathing heavily. He panted as if he had completed a tremendous task. There was a wild triumphant gleam in the burning eyes of his pale, haggard young face. I sat opposite him in the police headquarters several times that night and listened to his confused stories. I read the Communist pamphlets he carried in his trouser pockets. They were of the kind which in those days were publicly distributed everywhere. And from the primitive hieroglyphics of his diary, I tried to follow his trips down to the Balkans. The voluntary confessions of Martinus van der Lubbe prevented me from thinking that an arsonist who was such an expert in his folly needed any helpers. Why should not a single match be enough to set fire to the cold yet inflammable splendor of the Chamber, the old upholstered furniture, the heavy curtains, and the bone-dry wooden paneling! But this specialist had used a whole knapsack full of inflammable material. He had been so active that he had laid several dozen fires. With a firelighter, called the "Industrious Housewife," he had set the Chamber aflame. Then he had rushed through the big corridors with his burning shirt which he brandished in his right hand like a torch to lay more fires under the old leather sofas. During this hectic activity he was overpowered by Reichstag officials.
He also confessed to several smaller arson attacks in Berlin, the mysterious cause of which had aroused the attention of the Criminal Investigation Department. Several details suggested that Communist arsonists who had helped him in Neuklln and the Berlin Town Hall might have helped him with the Reichstag. The interrogating officers had pointed their investigations in this direction. But meanwhile things of a quite different nature had happened.
Shortly after my arrival in the burning Reichstag, the National Socialist elite had arrived. Hitler and Goebbels had driven up in their large cars; G ring,Frick and Count Helldorf arrived; Daluege, the police chief, was not there.
One of Hitler's chief adjutants came to look for me in the maze of corridors, now alive with the fire brigade and the police. He passed me Gring's order to appear in the select circle. On a balcony jutting out into the Chamber, Hitler and his trusty followers were assembled. Hitler stood leaning his arms on the stone parapet of the balcony and stared silently into the red sea of flames. The first hysterics were already over. As I entered, Gring came towards me. His voice was heavy with the emotion of the dramatic moment: "This is the beginning of the Communist revolt, they will start their attack now! Not a moment must be lost!"
Gring could not continue. Hitler turned to the assembled company. Now I saw that his face was purple with agitation and with the heat gathering in the dome. He shouted uncontrollably, as I had never seen him do before, as if he was going to burst: "There will be no mercy now. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down. The German people will not tolerate leniency. Every Communist official will be shot where he is found. The Communist deputies must be hanged this very night. Everybody in league with the Communists must be arrested. There will no longer be any leniency for Social Democrats either."
I reported on the results of the first interrogations of Martinus van der Lubbe that in my opinion he was a maniac. But with this opinion I had come to the wrong man; Hitler ridiculed my childish view: "That is something really cunning, prepared a long time ago. The criminals have thought all this out beautifully; but they've miscalculated, haven't they, Comrades! These gangsters have no idea to what extent the people are on our side. They don't hear the rejoicing of the crowds in their rat holes, from which they now want to emerge," and so it went on.
I pulled Gring aside; but he did not let me start: "Police on an emergency footing; shoot to kill; and any other emergency regulations which might be appropriate in such a case." I said again that a police radio message would be sent to all police stations in his name, putting the police in a state of alert and ordering the arrest of those Communist officials whose imprisonment had been intended for some time in the event of a ban on the Party. Gring was not listening: "No Communist and no Social Democrat traitor must be allowed to escape us" were his last words. When I met [his deputy] Schneider again I tried to collect my thoughts:
"This is a mad-house, Schneider, but apart from that the time has come: all Communist and Social Democrat officials are to be arrested, big raids, a state of alert and all that goes with it!"
Schneider forgot the Social Democrats when he passed on Gring's order as a radio message. When I returned to [Berlin Police headquarers] the 'Alex' after midnight it was buzzing like a beehive. The alerted operational battalions of the police stood lined up in long rows in the entrance ways with steel helmets and rifles. While squad vans arrived and whole troops of detectives with registers prepared many years before jumped on the ramps, joined by uniformed officers, the first cars were arriving back at the entrance of the building with dazed prisoners who had been woken up from their sleep....
27 February 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry ˙
Suddenly at the beginning of the midnight news report, the radio announcer's voice in great excitement proclaims: "The Reichstag Building is burning." Every conversation in the small caf ceases. We learn that the Reichstag in Berlin was today set afire by the Communists. The whole building is engulfed in flames. The dome threatens to collapse. One of the arsonists is already arrested; he is a young Dutch communist named van der Lubbe. We are all dumbfounded. How can anyone understand this insane act, shortly before the elections, shortly before the voting which Goebbels has so carefully prepared and called the "Day of the Awakening Volk." What could have driven the communists to such a heroic act of despair! Didn't they know that the Nazis would gladly welcome such an event?
M accompanied me to the house.... My father was still working at his desk. I bring him the news. He was silent a few seconds, and then announced in his finest Bavarian dialect?: "'Course, they've set it themselves.... "But the arrested communist? Can they simply invent him?" From his fifty years of experience as a prosecuting attorney, my father smiles.
The Communists have set the Reichstag on fire, a horrible fire, which has been deliberately started in various places in the building.
The thoughts and hopes of most Germans is completely concentrating upon Hitler; his reputation soars to the stars; he is the savior for an evil and saddened German world.... When we ask people of every rank and educational background "Who are you voting for?", [the answer] is always the same: "Why we're voting for the same as everyone else, list #1, only Hitler." And a few cases, like us, are hesitating between #1 and #5 [DNVP] . É An ordinary looking young man walked by, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, but all by himself singing in a booming voice a Nazi song. Franz said "It sounded like he was praying. It's becoming a religion."
28 February 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry ˙
In violation of the rights of parliamentary immunity, all Communist Reichstag members are arrested. All Communist Party functionaries are arrested. So too are the leaders of the Social Democratic Party. Why? Does the government assume that they stand behind the setting of the fire? Will the government claim that the Socialists encouraged and incited the arsonist? But no, it appears that we must stop trying to find rational arguments. The Revolution creates its own legalities.... Now for the first time since last night, the Revolution has truly begun.
Wishing to legalize the arrests, Ludwig Grauert, an official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior and a German Nationalist [not Nazi] suggested an "emergency decree against arson and terrorist acts." He gained Hitler's approval. Both conceived the decree as a purely defensive measure, and in its draft form it was directed specifically against the Communists.
Before the Cabinet meeting where it was to be discussed, however, the Reich Minister of the Interior, Frick, completely changed its thrust. Under the Weimar Constitution the powers of the Reich Minister of the Interior were extremely limited; individual state governments had direct authority over both their police and internal administration. Now, apparently acting on his own, Frick decided to use the opportunity presented by the Reichstag Fire to strengthen his Ministry's control over the states. Note that in the following decree Article 2 enabled Frick as Reich Minister of the Interior to assume power in each state.
Sections 114, 115, 117, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution ... .are suspended until further notó ice. Thus restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of assembly and association, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house-searches, orders for confiscations as well as restricó tions on property rights are permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.
If in a state other measures necessary for the restoration of public security and order are not taken, the Reich Government may temporarily take over the powers of the highest state authorities....
Whoever provokes, or appeals for, or incites to the disobedience of the orders given out by the supreme authorities or authorities subject to them for the execution of this decree ... is punishable insofar as the deed is not covered by other decrees with more severe punishments with imprisonment of not less than one month, or with a fine from 150 up to 15,000 Reichsmarks.
Whoever endangers human life by violating Article 1 is to be punished by sentence to a penitentiary with imprisonment of not less than six months and, when violation causes the death of a person, with death....
Whoever provokes or incites to an act contrary to public welfare is to be punished with a penitentiary sentence with imprisonment of not less than three months....
Seizing upon the wonderful break of the Reichstag fire, the Nazi electoral campaign now took off. The government released hair-raising stories about Communist threats. The public had little difficulty believing these purely fictitious charges.
I telephones.... She never had any use for Hitler. I asked how her house was voting? She was almost insulted: "Why Hitler, naturally! No one else can even be considered. We must support his cause with all means!" This conversation decided me ... for all those who once would never even consider him are now voting for the man who has long been the only one who has really excited me politically, because without any formal program he wants exactly that which I want, and which Germany, also without any program, wants....
The government has issued a statement [on the Reichstag Fire].... Gring, speaking like an old, experienced official, reports in a dry yet completely serious fashion the horrible murderous plans of the Communists who have withdrawn into their stronghold of Hamburg. He began with the account of the raid on the Karl Liebknecht House, where the police found a complete system of subterranean passages and attic chambers.... Hundreds of implicating documents were uncovered: hostages to be taken from bourgeois families, wives and children of police officers to be used as shields, destruction of all cultural monuments just as in Russia palaces, museums, churches. They were to begin with the Reichstag. Twenty-eight different fires set there. The entire Communist leadership [in Germany] arrested. Thlmann has fled to Copenhagen. The Communists had intended to send armed groups of Reds into the villages to murder and burn, and then when the cities had been stripped of police, the terror would break out in the large municipalities: poison, boiling water, any implement from the most refined to the most primitive, would be turned into a weapon. It reads like a cops and robber story were it not for the fact that we have the case of Russia, which has experienced all the asiatic torture and orgy, which a German mind, even when sick, is incapable of devising, and, when healthy, is unable to believe.
If Italy, America, and England were clever, they would send us money right away, in order to fight Bolshevism. For our destruction will be their destruction! Gring says that he has not lost his nerve, and he won't lose it. I hope the voters won't lose their nerve and stay away from the polling booths out of fear. For truly the streets are today a battle field!
Fellow Germans, my measures will not be crippled by any judicial thinking. My measures will not be crippled by any bureaucracy. Here I don't have to worry about Justice, my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more. This struggle will be a struggle against chaos, and such a struggle I shall not conduct with the power of the police. A bourgeois State might have done that. Certainly, I shall use the power of the State and the police to the utmost, my dear Communists, so don't draw any false conclusions; but the struggle to the death, in which my fist will grasp your necks, I shall lead with those down there -- the Brown Shirts.
For Hitler's final speech before the voting, Joseph Goebbels, who had taken over control of the State Radio system on 1 March, pulled out all the stops.
4 March 1933 Goebbels Diary Entry, ˙
The great "Day of the Awakening Nation" has come. Land at two o'clock in the old coronation town of Knigsberg [in East Prussia]. The last preparations made for the meeting in the evening. All will go off splendidly. I outline the day's events and describe the anticipated effect the celebration will have. The Fhrer speaks with utmost fervor and devotion. When at the end he mentions that the President of Germany and he had clasped hands the one having released Prussia from the enemy as a Field-Marshal, the other having done his duty in the West as a simple soldier solemn silence reigns and deep emotion holds the whole assembly. The Dutch Hymn of Thanksgiving, the last verse of which is drowned in the clamor of the bells from the Knigsberg Cathedral, forms a mighty chorus to crown his speech. This hymn goes throbbing on the ethereal waves of the Radio over the whole of Germany. Forty million people are now standing in the squares and in the streets, or are sitting in the Beer Halls and their homes by the radio, and become conscious that the new era has dawned. At this moment hundreds of thousands will decide to follow Hitler, and fight in his spirit for the revival of the nation.
5 March 1933 Luise Solmitz Diary Entry ˙
The great day. Our Kippingstreet bedecked with flags--Black-White-Red and Swastikas -- has never looked so festive.
Should no majority be reached by lists #1 and #5 [NSDAP and DNVP], we still hope that Hitler won't budge an inch.... Hitler's speech yesterday in Knigsberg was so moving that Frau H started to cry: "Now Thank We All Our God" ringing out, accompanied by the gentle swelling, and then ever more powerful bells of the Castle Church, followed by five minutes of silence on the radio, was really gripping. Hitler's last speech before the elections, the high point of the campaign.
By now, the counting of the ballots has begun throughout Germany. At the very least, Hitler has accompanied one thing, fewer parties are on the ballot, really only ideological parties, for the laughable splinter groups have fallen by the wayside. I rejoice in Hitler's lack of any platform, for a program is either lies, or a path for ninnies, or a sign of weakness. The truly strong act out of the necessities of the given moment and won't commit themselves in advance, and then say "Oh, I can't do that because I have promised so and so!" In the last analysis every person is his own program. ...
5 March 1933 Election Results for the Reichstag, (647 Seats)˙
NSDAP 288 17,277,180
DNVP 52 3,136,760
Catholics 92 5,496,893
SPD 120 7,181,629
KPD 81 4,848,058
In the evening with father to Auerbach's Cellar, our old familiar gathering place, in order to listen to the election returns. The "victory" is certainly not nearly as great as we had feared, and indeed when measured by all the effort that went into it, it is surprisingly small. The National Socialists alone are far from reaching an absolute majority, even after disqualifying the entire Communist Party vote! Counting the traitorous conservatives [who were partners with Hitler in the cabinet], the government has only a narrow majority of 51.8%. And so, in spite of the gigantic propaganda, in spite of the most brutal suppression and elimination of all real opponents, in spite of the fortunate coincidence (or crime?) of the Reichstag fire, and in spite of the cleverest propaganda crusade in the press which any party in Germany has ever mounted a Nazi-majority in the German people is still not a reality.
Splendid Germans! In spite of everything, the workers stand immovably loyal to their leaders. The Catholics immovably loyal to their Church. And there are even a few determined Democrats! 48.2% of all the voters have had the courage to vote against Hitler or to stay at home. I consider this day to be a victory and source of comfort.
Only the middle-class professionals that is my own social classis weak, cowardly, ready for any betrayal and any compromise! That part of the middle class which is now helping the Nazis to total power, to a "legal implementation" of the revolution, bears the true guilt for whatever is now going to happen to us.
[An entry added late that night]... The results of the voting in Hamburg: Council Seats: Hitler 5, Black-White-Red 1, Socialists 3, Communists 2.A fantastic, and unexpected and intoxicating victory. We have the majority! Finally. It is a victory which all of us who are of patriotic minds have accomplished for Hitler. We small in faith, who have admired the will power which Hitler brought into this election. Once again this man of genius was more clever, more trusting than we.... The radio announces that Mayor Peterson has resigned ... that the Swastika and the Black-White-Red flags have been hoisted at the police station and at City Hall!! I still can't believe this is happening!!
In Thuringia, a Central Committee of Jewish Citizens, or something like that ... has spread rumors abroad that Hitler was preparing pogroms against Jews! And others have claimed that Hitler himself had set the fires in the Reichstag.... Certainly the burning Reichstag has been extremely useful in this election.
Midnight ... and I insist that we must go out. Before the police stations, joyful demonstrations of victory. Our flags are waving on the roofs.... We encounter the parade of Brown Shirts and Steel Helmets who have carried out the hoisting of the flags at the City Hall. We walk on through the mild spring night. From the balcony of the City Hall there hangs a huge Swastika.... "Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil" ring out all about us, from Hitler Youths, Steel Helmets, from the simply curious and those intoxicated with joy.
The City Hall clock strikes one. We go home. A mild opalescence hangs over the Alster, beautifully reflecting the candleabras of the Lombard Bridge. I fall into bed, like a happy child, the dear colors of our [old imperial] flags flow gently into dreams.
But behind this happy picture of a peaceful transfer of power lay a much more complicated story. The majority of the federal states were not yet controlled by the Nazis, and local authorities, responsible for the police and for public order, tried to maintain an attitude of neutrality towards the various conflicting forces and to preserve civil liberties. But local Nazis, were determined to exploit the momentum created by the election campaign to seize power in the local states.
Their approach began with intimidation from below by local mass action. The SA created disorders, usually culminating in the hoisting of the swastika on the town hall; local Party leadership then requested the Reich Ministry of the Interior [the Nazi Wilhelm Frick] to intervene because the existing state authorities were incapable of maintaining order and showed insufficient sympathy with the new Reich Government. The Reich Minister of the Interior usually then appointed a leading local Nazi as a Reich Police Commissioner and local Nazis could then intimidate state and municipal governments into resignation and Nazi led governments were then announced.
The first state to experience this technique was Hamburg, where it occurred a few days before the March election. A Nationalist Hamburg senator subsequently complained to Vice-Chancellor von Papen.
9 March 1933 Protest of Senator Paul de Chapeaurouge to Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen
Having retired from the Senate and a new Senate having been elected, my sense of honor and of duty towards the Reich obliges me to refer once again to the events which took place in Hamburg on 3-5 March. I take the liberty of sending this letter to you, because of my conviction that I am closest to you among all the leading men of the Reich government.
On the morning of 3 March, the Social Democrat senators resigned from the Senate because they did not want to consent to the ban on the [Newspaper] ˙
contemplated by the Reich Government. The remaining bourgeois senators pronounced this ban, which was undoubtedly permissible by law, as their first official act.
After the resignation of the Social Democrat senators, as the previous deputy police chief, I had to take over the police. I knew that I had taken on a very difficult office, but I had no idea that my administration would prove as difficult as it at once became, owing to the activities of the Reich Ministry of the Interior....
After the resignation of the Social Democrat senators, the Senate's first duty was to continue to carry out its functions in accordance with a strict observance of the Constitution and the laws until the new election, and to try its best to achieve an early election [of the senate]. This I was determined to do.
The Reich Government had the clear duty of supporting the Senate as the official organ of legal power. In my opinion, the Reich Ministry of the Interior, which is mainly responsible for relations with the states, failed in its task. To a large extent it bears the responsibility for the developments in Hamburg. The city was quite calm; according to absolutely reliable information given to the police, no serious disturbance of public order was to be expected from the Left. The course of events has proved the correctness of this opinion held by the police authorities. Yet, it was a group of police sympathetic to the Nazis who hoisted the swastika on the town hall.
Unrest occurred in Hamburg only because a few authorities, especially the Gau [i.e. Regional] leadership of the NSDAP, sent alarmist reports to Berlin and caused the Reich Minister of the Interior [Frick] to ask the Senate officially to transfer the command of the police to the former police lieutenant, [SA leader] Richter. This suggestion was apparently passed on from Berlin simultaneously to the NSDAP and the press. In Hamburg it was underlined by wild press articles and by pressure on the members of the Senate in personal discussions in a most questionable way, and thus the situation was aggravated .
The course which the Senate should have followed was laid down in the Constitution. According to that Constitution and the law, it should have been unable to meet the request which had been made. In my opinion, since the election to the Senate was obviously to take place shortly, it was the Reich Minister's duty to urge the Gau leadership of the NSDAP, which prided itself on its constant contact with the Ministry, to maintain law and order so that the Constitution and the law would not be broken before the forthcoming election. But, so far as I could observe events, there were no such attempts at persuasion. Despite the alarmist press articles, Hamburg remained completely peaceful; only the police, among whom the NSDAP had begun an active propaganda campaign some time before, began to waver
The Hamburg events were, in my opinion, determined by the NSDAP's intention, known to me since 3 March, of gaining control of the police before the election of the Senate. This aim could not be achieved owing to the current legal situation in Hamburg, therefore, the NSDAP tried to reach their goal via the Reich. Owing to the fact that the NSDAP did not want to wait over the police question, circumstances have developed in Hamburg which are very regrettable from the point of view of police discipline and public order in the future....
It is my firm conviction that, if the Reich Ministry of the Interior had used its full authority to persuade the NSDAP to keep the peace, Hamburg would have been spared the events of 5 March, so constitutionally and politically unsatisfactory. The situation now is that, contrary to the solemn promises of the Reich Government, an interference in Hamburg's sovereignty has taken place which could have been avoided and is undesirable from the point of view of the initial work on the Reich reform....
Since the elections on March 5, had surprisingly given a majority in even Socialist Hamburg to Hitler, Frick could argue that he had merely anticipated the vote by illegally intervening in appointing the new Police Chief. But in Bavaria, where Hitler knew he would never receive a majority from the loyal Catholic population, a similar revolution from the top was engineered. Prime Minister Heinrich Held was toying with the idea of appointing Prince Ruprecht, son of the last reigning Bavarian King, as the head of the state, a kind of regent. This move would secure Bavaria, he believed, from Nazi interference. But he too, had not counted on the ruthless local Nazis.
The following remarkable document comes from the files of Lina Heydrich, wife of Reinhard Heydrich, the young and ambitious assistant to Heinrich Himmler in the SS.
Dear parents: What a life. You will surely have read about our little Revolution [in Bavaria] in the newspapers. According to Reinhard's stories, it must have been precious! Now, I would like to tell you what I know of the developments.
On Wednesday, [8 March], [her husband] Reinhard came early to the house with the news that he had to return at once to the Brown House [Nazi Party Headquarters], because the Bavarian Government would not submit [to SA demands that General von Epp, a prominent Nazi, take over the government of Bavaria]. Thus, I would have to handle the arrangements concerning the shipping of the furniture to Berlin [where the Heydrichs were about to move]. Oh oh, I thought, something is going on. At about 11, Reinhard telephoned that I should send his pistols at once to the Brown House. Naturally I thought the worst and really was shaken.
At 1, the Bavarian government ordered the police to fire upon the SA should, contrary to the orders of the Chancellor, they undertake any action against the Bavarian government. Thereupon Rhm [head of the SA] , Himmler [head of the SS] and Reinhard visited Prime Minister Held and spent more than an hour negotiating with him. Rhm demanded that the Bavarian Government itself should appoint Epp as Commissioner. They promised to do so by 3:00. In fact, they only wanted to gain some time and immediately got in touch with Berlin [inquiring if the Reich government would protect the legal government of Bavaria].
Three o'clock came, and still no answer. Rhm telephoned Hitler who promised a telegram. General Epp would be named Commissioner by the Federal Government. For some reason still unexplained, this telegram never arrived. A second was sent. Reinhard himself went to the telegraph office and in a half hour he had a memorable document in his hand. He brought it to General Epp, and now came the time for decisive action.
First came the occupation of the Police Office [in Munich]. They traveled there in four automobiles. The first black SA car carried Epp and Rhm. In the second came Himmler and Reinhard. The others contained the armed escort. The sentries [outside police headquarters] were taken by surprise and reacted meekly. Police Chief Koch had already left the office. Reinhard says that it gave him great pleasure to see the same people who only a half year ago had locked up and beaten SA and SS men with rubber trenchons, now fleeing before these same SA and SS men.
Himmler had been named Police Chief [of Bavaria], Seidl Ditmarsh Director of Police, and Reinhard -- now don't laugh -- Commissioner of the Political Police. I myself laughed uproariously at this. When Reinhard informed his predecessor, ˙Oberregierungsrat
Koch, about the new appointment, the latter paled significantly. Reinhard however will only clean out the dung from the police and then resign. There's so much shit here that he says he would sink in it if he didn't get out soon. Next week he will go to Berlin and take over his office there. Himmler too will leave soon.
So that was the police action. At the same time the other public buildings were occupied. Every thing ran perfectly, without a single shot being fired. The occupation of the ˙
Munich Post was most amusing. This is the newspaper of the Munich SPD.
Standartenfhrer˙ Hflich invaded the building with SA and SS men. The whole building was quiet as the grave. Then they found that all 300 Reichsbanner people [the paramilitary arm of the SPD] had gathered in a large room. They formed a nice picture: all 300 stood with their hands in the air. Hflich ordered: Hands down, left turn, march, march. In the evening the SA and the SS had their own amusements. They received the assignment to arrest all political enemies, insofar as they could be identified, and bring them to the Brown House. Now that was some thing for the youngsters! Finally they could take their revenge for all the injustice which had been imposed upon them, for all the blows and wounds they had sustained, and especially revenge for all their fallen comrades. Already more than 300 Communists, Socialists, Jews and BVP [Catholic Party] are arrested. A few interesting incidents of this action are known to me. Hflich received instructions to arrest Interior Minister Stutzel with a few SS men. At first, Stutzel was calm and took leave of his wife and child, but then he refused to leave his bed and go with them. After he refused the third demand to accompany them, the SS simply took him like he was and thrust him into the automobile and off to the Brown House. You can imagine the fun. There stood the Herr Minister of the Interior in his stockings and nightshirt, surrounded by SA and SS men who could not help but laugh. Then they attached heavy chains to his big toes and dragged off the crying Minister of the Interior between them, hopping from one leg to another. You can just picture the scene!
Then the Jew Lewy was brought in. With him they made short shrift. They gave his a sound thrashing with dog whips [Hundepeitshcen], pulled off his shoes and stockings, and then, accompanied by the SS, he was sent off bare-footed to his home. His house had, in the meantime, been thoroughly plundered and fumigated. Lewy was the leader of the Munich Jews.
This might give you some idea of what has gone on here. Many Jesuits and Jews have fled. But none is dead, none even seriously wounded, but they have learned fear, fear indeed I can assure you.
Similar developments occurred all over Germany, but many were more bloody.
From 3 March the atmosphere in the town and the countryside became unbearable. One brawl after another.... On 9 March at 11 a.m. a fight started between an SS man, obviously sent out for the purpose of provocation, and a member of the Reichsbanner. At about 12 noon a small police car appeared in front of the Volksfreund [the SPD newspaper] office building with about ten policemen and the SS man who was alleged to have been beaten up. They searched the Volksfreund for the culprit ... but it was in vain.
At 4:05 p.m. three trucks with SA and SS drove up. The porter promptly closed the doors, but the Nazis smashed the big display windows and pushed into the building through the holes. They opened fire inside the building with a number of rifles and revolvers. During this, a 28-year-old salesman, Hans Saile, the manager of the
Advertising Union of Berlin, was killed by a shot in the stomach.... The intruders rushed up the stairs and smashed in the locked doors with their rifle butts. Union secretaries, employees, typists, Co-op salesgirls were all driven together with cudgels, rifles, revolvers and daggers. Then, with the order "Hands up!", they were locked up for hours, before being released with kicks and slaps.
Although the [SPD] leadership had tried for weeks to remove all important and valuable material and funds from the building, they had not succeeded in securing all the money, books and documents in time. Several thousand Reichsmarks were confiscated by the intruders on their own authority. The whole building was searched for valuables.... A P, hidden behind a cupboard as the Nazis broke in, heard the men grumbling that their booty of money and valuables had been far too small.... During the course of the action, the private tenants of the Volksfreund building were raided in their flats, abused, threatened with weapons and beaten up.
The regular police had meanwhile blocked off the surrounding streets with a strong force. The Nazis looted the building in front of their very eyes. They destroyed the furniture and equipment. Anything that was movable they dragged into the yard. Documents, pieces of furniture, ... book supplies, account books and flags were heaped on a pyre and set alight. The fire burned for three days and nights.
Immediately after the raid on the building, Comrade Dr. Heinrich Jaspers, the former Prime Minister of Brunswick, telephoned the Police Chief and informed him of what had happened. He accused the lawyer and Reichstag Representative, Alpers, leader of the SS in Brunswick, of armed riot, unlawful assembly, housebreaking and disturbance of public order.
Police Chief Lieff replied that these actions were completely legal. Representative Alpers had been provided with a police warrant for this action. After this phone call, the regular police units were withdrawn from the Volksfreund, so Alper's hordes had a free hand. Jaspers was told he should file a written complaint in the usual way.[The police] refused to intervene before the complaint had been filed.
There was of course no redress. On the contrary, Alpers became Minister of Justice [and a few weeks later. Dr. Jasper was soon arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he later died of ill-treatment.]
The bourgeois paper in Brunswick reported the occupation the following morning. According to them it had been carried out quite legally, for the building had been a center of unrest for a long time. Moreover, it was alleged that masses of treasonable material and ammunition had been found.
These months saw an orgy of violence against the Party's opponents, particularly those on the Left. This violence, largely spontaneous and often aimed at settling old local scores, rapidly began to get out of control. In retrospect, this reign of terror was the unleashing of all the frustration of the SA and local Party organizations from the strict legality policy of the pre-1933 period. The Party's rank and file saw at last the possibility of taking revenge on their opponents and of acquiring the prizes of power. As far as they were concerned, it was now their state and they were not ready for compromise or half measures. Trade union offices were smashed; Social Democrat officials were dragged off by SA men, cruelly beaten up and stashed in hastily improvised concentration camps. In many places, the SA also seized the opportunity to intimidate businessmen into giving them employment in one form or another. A kind of protection racket developed.
1933 Report of Wilhelm Sollmann, SPD Member of the Reichstag, and former Minister of Labor
On Thursday 9 March, shortly after three o'clock in the afternoon, three cars filled with Storm Troopers and SS men pulled up at my house. At that moment I was speaking on the telephone to a member of the Town Council, and I was able to tell him: "Nazis are forcing their way in, give the Police Strike Force the alarm."
At that moment a number of men armed with loaded revolvers, sticks and knives forced their way into my study. Before I could say a word I was struck down at my desk. The men were in a kind of frenzy of hate and joy at being able to take revenge on me. Most of the men went to the other rooms in the house and in a few minutes literally smashed everything to splinters. ... I was hit again and thrown into an open car. My wife called out: "Where are you taking my husband?" One of them answered jeeringly: "You'll soon know that!"
First they drove me over the grass towards the wood. As there was a Storm Troop man sitting in front of me and flourishing a revolver the whole time, I thought that they were going to shoot me in the nearest woods. But they drove on, abusing me all the time -- some of the abuse was quite insane -- and then we crossed the bridge near Kalk. There they drove slowly, and all along the High Street, which was full of people. I was exhibited to the crowd: "This is the great Sollmann! See how small he is!" I was taken to the district headquarters of the National Socialists in the Mozartstrasse. I was chased up the stairs with blows and kicks and lashes, and then into the conference room. They had lowered the blinds so that the room was half in darkness. I was to be put before a tribunal. A large swastika banner was spread over the table. I saw that my colleague, Efferoth, was sitting near the window, in the same plight as myself. I had hardly taken a seat near him with the tortures began, and they went on for two hours.
First a man in SA uniform, whom my colleague said was Councillor Ebele, made a short speech attacking Efferoth, saying that retribution was now to come. Then SS men began attacking us with their fists. For about half an hour, Efferoth and I lay on the floor, so exhausted that we could not get up. All the time we were being hit and kicked, and now and then our hair was pulled and our heads knocked together.
Eventually we were pulled up and forced into chairs; a man held our hands behind the chair, while another forced us to open our teeth and poured a liter of castor-oil down our throats. One of our tormentors shouted for salts to increase our torture, but apparently salts could not be got quickly enough. Then they gave us a short rest again. I begged for a glass of water. When it was given to me I saw its [urine] color and therefore only used it to pour over my hands which were covered with blood. One of the men shouted: "Why don't you drink the water?" At the same moment he threw the glass with what was left of its contents into my face. Then we were struck and kicked again.
All at once our tormentors seemed to get uneasy. I thought that the police must have been notified of our being attacked and carried off. About 5 o'clock, the SS men took hold of us and with a shout of "Into the coal cellar!" literally flung us down the stairs. Apparently the coal cellar was locked, and they seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of us. They therefore pushed us across the street, with blows and kicks -- our faces were already a bloody pulp -- to a car. We were made to squat on the floor.
The ill-treatment was carried on in the closed car; one blow struck me in the right eye. We pulled up at police headquarters. Although we were in a state of collapse we were forced to run in and up the stairs.... One of the Nazis said that next day we would have to walk in front of the Nazis' torchlight procession and at the finish we would be thrown onto the heap of torches.... The Police Chief advised us to let him place us under protective arrest. I referred to my parliamentary immunity; he agreed with what I said, but nevertheless advised that Efferoth and I should enter the prison hospital.
In the hospital we were sewn up and bandaged. During the torturing, one of the SS men had slowly and deliberately pressed a knife into Efferoth's side. The doctor stated that it would have been dangerous if it had gone a centimeter deeper.... Next day, the Press published a report that we had been attacked by political opponents and suffered "slight injuries."
In his postwar memoirs, Rudolf Diels, head of the Political Division of the Prussian Police at the time, recalled the confusion and violence which surrounded this outbreak of terror in the allegedly peaceful national uprising:
The uprising of the Berlin SA electrified the remotest parts of the country. Around many big cities in which the authority of the police had been transferred to the local SA leaders, revolutionary activities took place beyond the periphery of these cities throughout the whole area of their regiments and groups. The higher the rank of these police-presidents, the farther afield extended the noisy abuses of these parhelions of the revolution. In Lower Silesia, the SA Gruppenfhrer [Edmund Heines] carried on a regime of violence from Breslau. In the North Rhineland, SS Gruppenfhrer Weitzel, the newly appointed police chief of Dsseldorf, displayed violent radicalism together with the SA leader Lobek; in Essen and the cities of the Ruhr area, the SA of [Gauleiter] Terboven held sway.
In East Prussia, Gauleiter Koch had allowed neither the SA nor the SS to come to power. Here the political leaders ruled. They were opposed to the 'reactionary' elements. The country was in a sort of state of war in which the aristocracy, as the imagined enemy, had to put up with a flood of arrest. From Stettin, the example of the SS Standartenfhrer, Engel, encouraged the Pomeranian SA to terrorize the country. From the cities of Rostock, Stargard and Greifswald, cases of beatings up were reported in which Communists and Social Democrats had been subjected to mock drownings and hangings. The torments had cost some victims their lives. In Silesia, the Rhineland, Westphalia and the Ruhr area, unauthorized arrests, insubordination to the police, forcible entry into public buildings, disturbance of the work of the authorities, the smashing up of dwellings and nightly raids had begun before the Reichstag fire at the end of February....
It was no longer possible to tell which public or private spheres had been penetrated by the SA, and scarcely possible to guess the purposes for which it allowed itself to be hired and employed. There was hardly a single business undertaking which had not employed an 'old fighter' of the SA for protection against the danger of "coordination," denunciation and threats. They were present everywhere as self-appointed directors, special commissars and SA delegates....
No [Party or State] order and no instruction exists for the establishment of the concentration camps; they were not established; one day they were simply there. The SA leaders put up "their'" camps because they did not trust the police with their prisoners or because the prisons were over crowded. No information about many of these ad hoc camps ever got as far as Berlin. Years after my departure from Berlin I heard of the existence of some camps of which I had no knowledge in 1933. We first heard of a camp in Kemma in the Ruhr area through the foreign press. It was the American journalist Lochner who informed the state police office that the [SA] group leader Heines had established a concentration camp near Durrgoy in Silesia.
And when Diels, as head of the Prussian Political Police attempted to investigate what was going on, he often met with open opposition.
At the beginning of October we heard that in Esterwegen and Papenburg prisoners had been shot while escaping.... I was refused access to the Esterwegen camp by the SS. I had announced my visit to the camp a week before. But Gring's order, which I had to show, had not impressed the SS. When I appeared at the entrance of the camp, as far as they were concerned I was a civilian without position or rank in their mighty organization. Only when Weitzel, the SS group leader in Dsseldorf, had given the commandant permission by telephone was I allowed to enter the camp.
The Papenburg camp granted me admission. But what can an 'inspection' of such an institution reveal? The prisoners' replies to the questions put by the inspector are determined by the fear of displeasing their tormentors in whose power the prisoners remain. The food is always adequate and the shining cleanliness of floors and barracks and the scrupulous tidiness of the beds do not tell that they are a means of tormenting the inmates. Nobody can see in the ridiculous straightness of the freshly raked expanses of sand that a violation of such orderliness means 'bunker' and corporal punishment. In Papenburg the unusual happened; a few of the prisoners' spokesmen 'let themselves go'. They not only complained of the food, but they made it clear that they had been subjected to ill-treatment.
In Papenburg, the mayor too had told me of the excesses of the SS toward the population. SS men roamed through the district pillaging like the Swedes in the Thirty Years War. They "confiscated" arrested people who had incurred their displeasure and started brawls with the youths of the surrounding villages. My visit had also encouraged the [Governor of] Osnabrck to inform me of the misdeeds by the SS in the camp.
Then, just at the right time, came a serious complaint by a Cologne lawyer, Dr. Punder, made to the Reich Minister of the Interior, Frick, on behalf of his brother, State Secretary Punder, who was in the hands of SS thugs in Papenburg. Frick had Punder's complaint passed on to me and [Minister of Justice] Grtner by Oberregierungsrat Erbe. Erbe promised me his support and Hanfstaengl promised to work on Hitler. At the same time, Chief Prosecutor Halm of Osnabrck had reported that his attempted investigations into the camps because of the ill-treatment of the innkeeper, Hillig, by SS men in Papenburg, had been refused with severe threats. Bypassing SS and Police Chief Daluege, I went with Joel, the public prosecutor, to Gring's representative, State Secretary Grauert. He gave us fifty Berlin police officers armed with carbines with whom Joel set off for Papenburg.
A delegate sent ahead by Joel was told that if the police approached the camp they would be received with machine guns. When Joel attempted to get into the camp, bullets flew round his ears. On his informing Grauert of this state of affairs, he was told to wait for further instructions. Meanwhile, Himmler had protested to Gring about the use of the police against the SS. Gring would have given in, had Joel not informed him that the SS were fraternizing with the prisoners in the camp and were going to arm them. This brought a new element into the revolutionary situation. Mention of the mutinous SS put all other arguments in the shade. Gring asked me to report to Hitler in his presence on what had happened. Hitler ordered the "take-over" of the camps by the police. When I informed Grauert, he sent 200 Osnabrck police off to the Dutch border. But they had to make ready to lay siege, as it were, to the camps, especially when a representative of SS Group Leader Weitzel appeared on the scene and tried to intimidate the police officers with threats from Himmler. I now went to ask Hitler straight out whether the police could use force of arms against the SS. Hitler let me see him and after my renewed account of the excesses in the camps, he interrupted me in a military voice of command and ordered me to ask the Reich Defense Minister for army artillery, and to shoot up the camps, the SS and their prisoners without mercy. My colleagues were horrified when I arrived with this order from the Fhrer. It was clear to me that I should not take it seriously.
I asked my superior, Ministerialdirektor Fischer in the Ministry of the Interior, to negotiate with the mutinous SS about their "demands" which, like freebooters, they had made the condition of their departure. They had demanded coats, blankets, and back pay. After he had informed the SS, through one of Weizel's SS leaders, about the fulfillment of their demands, Joel took possession of the camps without bloodshed. He then spent some time in Papenburg to begin investigations into the violence of the SS guards....
At this time Joel also went to Kemma near Wuppertal at Grauert's and my instigation. The SA had tortured the Communists there in a particularly "original" way. They were forced to drink salty herring solution and then left to pant in vain for a sip of water throughout the hot summer days. One of my officers who had accompanied Joel reported that the SA there had also played the "joke" of getting their prisoners to climb trees; they had to hang on in the tree tops for hours on end and at certain intervals cry "cuckoo." Public Prosecutor Winckler in Wuppertal, who proposed to act against the SA, had to flee with his wife and child from their threats. The Regierungspresident Schmidt in Dsseldorf poured out his heart to me about the atrocities. With Joel, I succeeded in getting Gring to have the "responsible" SA Group Leader relieved of his office, to ensure that Joel had a free hand in the prosecution of the SA guards. After a few months, Joel succeeded, despite the opposition of Gauleiter Florian, in starting proceedings against the guilty SA men. But in the struggle with Hitler, who finally terminated the proceedings, he was bound to lose....
In reality, there were neither commands nor prohibitions [issued from Berlin for SA or SS men.] Before and after my reports to Gring and Hitler on acts of violence in the country, SA and SS leaders would talk openly about the bravery of their men on the field of the revolution. These acts were apparently approved of and laughed over even as they were disapproved of when I represented them as excesses against the authority of the new state .... Already, the SA were breaking into police prisons, to get hold of the Communist leaders who had been arrested after the Reichstag fire, and who, they intended, should be the victims of their special revenge. From police headquarters they even took files which could incriminate their own leaders; the frightened police officials handed over whatever they were asked for.
The impact of this intimidation was both profound and wide-reaching.
In accordance with Paragraph 9 of the statutes, I hereby signify my resignation and that of my wife with immediate effect....
As a civil servant I have to make a choice. On the one hand, I see how the tendency is growing on the part of my employer, the Reich, not to tolerate those employees belonging to anti-Government associations. On the other hand, there is my loyalty to the Party. Unfortunately, I see no other solution but my resignation. The existence of my family is at stake. If the fate of unemployment, which in my experience can be very, very hard, is unavoidable, I need not reproach myself for not having done everything in the interest of my wife and child.
Enabling Laws were not an entirely new concept in German politics. They had been frequently introduced during the early days of the Weimar Republic; he most famous were those of 13 October and 8 December 1923 which dealt with the crisis caused by the inflation and the Ruhr invasion.˙
Now after the election failed to give him the 2/3Ġs majority needed to change the power of the Reichstag, Hitler reluctantly took up PapenĠs suggestion to have the parliament pass an Enabling law. In addition to his political/constitutional dilemma, Hitler faced the difficult job of legalizing the powers his SA and SS had already won for him on the streets of hundreds of towns and cities. . Although the NSDAP and his ally the DNVP enjoyed a slight majority in the Reichstag (51%), Hitler did not want to have anything to do with parliamentary rule. He was assisted in his search for an alternative form of government by the leaders of the various political parties who seemed to fall over one another in offering to cooperate.˙
The Reich Chancellor opened the meeting and stated that ... he regarded the events of 5 March as a revolution. Ultimately Marxism would no longer exist in Germany. What was needed was an Enabling Law passed by a two-thirds majority.
He, the Reich Chancellor, was firmly convinced that the Reichstag would pass such a law. The deputies of the German Communist Party would not appear at the opening of the Reichstag, because they were in jail....
The Vice-Chancellor and Reich Commissioner of Prussia [Papen] expressed to the Reich Chancellor and the National Socialist Organization the thanks of the Reich Cabinet for their admirable performance in the election.... With regard to the internal political situation the Vice-Chancellor stated that yesterday (6 March) Msgr. Kaas [Head of the Catholic Center Party] had been to see him. He had stated that he had come without previously consulting his party and was now prepared to let by-gones be by-gones. He had, moreover, offered the cooperation of the Center Party....
Reich Minister Gring stated that the Communist deputies would not take part in the sessions of the Reichstag because they were in jail. Serious charges were also to be made against a number of Marxist deputies. Forty persons of the Iron Front had carried out united action with the German Communist Party. He was firmly convinced that a two-thirds majority in the Reichstag would be obtained for an Enabling Law. Deputies who left the session in order to make it impossible for the two-thirds quorum to be present would have to forfeit their free travel passes and allowances for the duration of the legislative period. He wished to make a change in the rules to this effect. In his opinion, the duty of elected Representatives to exercise his mandate also entailed that he must not absent himself from sessions without being excused.
Grass, the chairman of the parliamentary group of the Prussian Center Party, had been to see him even before the election. Grass had made the offer that if no further changes in personnel were made before the election, then the Center Party would be prepared to cooperate. According to the statements made by Grass, the collaboration of the German Nationalists could then be dispensed with. It was best to tell the Center Party that all its civil servants would be removed from office if the Center Party did not agree to the Enabling Law. For the rest, the tactics to be employed towards the Center Party would have to consist in courteously ignoring it....
Meanwhile, many in the Federal Government were growing increasingly concerned about the excesses of the SA revolution, over which neither they, nor the Nazi hierarchy, appeared to have any control. Hitler too seemed torn between loyalty to his followers, with whose actions against their opponents he apparently sympathized, and his need to placate his conservative allies and in particular President Hindenburg (who could dismiss him at any time). . Only days after the election, he delivered an unusual speech, stressing the need to end the violence.
Comrades, SA and SS men! A revolution has taken place in Germany. It is the result of hard struggles, the greatest tenacity, but also the tightest discipline. Unscrupulous characters, mainly Communist spies, are trying to compromise the Party by individual actions which have no relation to the great work of the national uprising, but could discredit and detract from the achievements of our movement. In particular, they try to bring the Party or Germany into conflict with foreign countries by molesting foreigners and cars with foreign flags. SA and SS men, you yourselves must immediately stop such creatures and take them to task. Furthermore, you must hand them over to the police. whoever they may be.
From this day onwards the National Government has executive power throughout Germany. The further progress of the national uprising will therefore be guided and planned from the top. Only where these orders are resisted, or where individuals or marching columns are ambushed, must this resistance be crushed, as before, thoroughly and immediately. The molesting of individuals, the obstruction or disturbance of business life, must cease on principle. You, Comrades, must see to it that the national revolution of 1933 cannot be comó pared in history with the revolution of the knapsack Spartakists in 1918. Apart from this, do not be deterred for a second from our watchword. It is: The extermination of Marxism.
The effect of this declaration may have been largely offset by a speech in Essen by Gring on the same day, in which he stated: "For years past we have told the people: 'You can settle accounts with the traitors.' We stand by our word. Accounts are being settled." But Hitler reiterated his appeal in a broadcast on 12 March, which appears to have had some effect.
At the Federal level, discussions were still proceeding on how to secure an Enabling Bill. Once again, Minister of the Interior Frick seemed clearly to be pursuing his own empire-building.˙
The Reich Chancellor opened the session and stated that the political situation was completely clarified now that the elections of the municipal councils had taken place. The clarification of the relations between the Reich and the south German states was of decisive importance, especially that of the relationship between the Reich and Bavaria. The Reich idea (Reichsgedanke) had shown itself surprisingly strong everywhere. The revolution in Bavaria was perhaps the most thorough one. In his opinion, further internal political developments would progress without disturbance. In Wrttemberg a government had already been formed. In Bavaria it was still necessary to clarify certain separatist activities. For this reason it would, in his opinion, be practical to wait a while with the formation of a government in Bavaria. The national revolution had taken place without great upheavals. He stated that henceforth, it would be necessary to detour all activities of the people towards the purely political, because economic decisions had to be awaited. In his opinion there would be no difficulties in getting the Enabling Act through the Reichstag with a two-thirds majority.
The foreign political situation had in no way become worse. He was firmly convinced that foreign countries would take a totally different attitude towards the present Reich government than to the former ones, that is, they would treat it with greater respect. The situation in Austria could not yet be surveyed clearly. As long as the political center of gravity was in Vienna, France would always be able to assert a strong influence.
The Reich Minister of the Interior [Frick] gave the information that he had attended the session of the Reichstag Committee of Senior Members. The five Reichstag parties still existing were all represented.... He had pointed out that the Reichstag ought to pass within three days an Enabling Act with the majority necessary to change the Constitution. The Center Party had not expressed any objection. Representative Esser had, however, asked to be received by the Reich Chancellor.
There still remained the question of what should happen to the drafts of bills which ought to be supported by the present administration, and formerly had already been presented to the Reichstag. In his opinion it was best, in anticipation of the Enabling Act, not to present the list to the Reich Council and the Reichstag, but to pass the list later on the basis of the Enabling Act. The Enabling Act would have to be so broadly framed that every provision of the German constitution could be side-tracked. It would have to have a time limit of four years for the time being. He, the Reich Minister of the Interior, had in mind something like the following text for the law:
÷The Reich administration shall be enabled to take such measures as it deems necessary in view of the needs of the people and the State. In doing so the provisions of the Reich constitution can be waived.
It was still to be determined if an addition to the content would be practical, according to which the validity of the Enabling Act would depend on the present composition of the Reich government.
As regards the two-third majorities demanded by the Reich constitution, altogether 432 representatives would have to be present to pass the Enabling Act, with the Communists included and the number of elected Reichstag representatives assumed to be 647. If the Communist representatives are deducted, all representatives would have to be present in order to pass the Enabling Act. He believed it better not to eliminate the Communist mandates. On the other hand, prohibition of the Communist Party would be practical. The prohibition would result in dissolution of the organizations. Eventually all persons who still insist on professing Communism would have to be sent to labor camps.
Reich Minister Gring expressed his conviction that the Enabling Act would be passed with the necessary two-thirds majority. Possibly that majority could be obtained by banishing several Social Democrats from the hall. Possibly, the Social Democrats would even refrain from voting on the Enabling Act. At the election of the President of the Reichstag, the Social Democrats would certainly hand in blank slips [rather than vote for Gring].
The original draft of the Enabling Law followed previous Weimar laws and permitted the issuing of Government decrees with the force of law without the need for prior Reichstag approval from the Reichstag The wording of this draft came primarily from Vice-Chancellor's Papen's office. At some point between 15 and 20 March, however, the draft was changed to empower the Reich Cabinet to issue not merely "decrees" but also "laws," even laws which deviated from the Constitution and thus required a two-thirds Reichstag majority. The legal distinction between a "law" and a "decree" was always a little vague, but the Weimar Constitution specified that certain legislation including authorization to borrow money and to implement the budget had to be "laws," i.e. required a 2/3's majority in the Reichstag. All previous Enabling Bills had only concerned "decrees."
This Enabling Bill, therefore, was a momentous move, but surprisingly, many of the non-Nazis in the Cabinet did not think the bill went far enough.
The Reich Chancellor reported on the interview which he had just had with representatives of the Center Party. He explained that in this interview he had established the necessity for the Enabling Act and that the representatives of the Center Party had recognized this necessity. The representatives of the Center Part had only asked that a small committee be formed which was to be continuously informed about the measures which the Reich Government would take on the basis of the Enabling Act. In his opinion this request should be granted; then there would be no doubt that the Center Party would agree to the Enabling Act. The acceptance of the Enabling Act by the Center Party would mean a strengthening of prestige abroad. On Wednesday the discussion of individual concrete questions with representatives of the Center Party was to be continued.
The Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs [Neurath] suggested that written notes be made of the settlements arrived at with the representatives of the Center Party.
The Reich Minister of the Interior [Frick] then presented the contents of a "Bill to Relieve the Distress of the People and of the Reich." He said that in his opinion it would be most practical to introduce the bill as an initial motion in the Reichstag. It would be best if the Party Leaders should sign it. A change in the parliamentary procedure of the Reichstag was also considered necessary. A specific ruling would have to be made that even those Reichstag members who were absent without being excused would be counted as present. Presumably it would be possible to pass the Enabling Act in all of its three readings on Thursday.
The Vice-Chancellor and Reich Commissioner for Prussia [Papen] stated that a new constitution would have to be formulated, which would above all be free of exaggerated parliamentarianism. Perhaps the Reich Chancellor in his government statement would be able to make some statements to this effect.
The Reich Chancellor said that he had already made clear to the representatives of the Center Party that the Reichstag could become a national assembly when the advance work for the outline of a new Reich constitution should be ready [i.e. it could be the new constitutional convention].
The Reich Minister of Economics and Reich Minister for Nutrition and Agriculture [Hugenberg] stated that the proposed Enabling Act could perhaps have a passage inserted, specifically declaring the Reichstag to be a national assembly. Reich Minister Gring declared that he had made an intensive study of this question. He considered it more practical, however, that such a form should not be chosen.
The Reich Cabinet approved the drafting of a "Law to Relieve the Distress of the People and the Nation."
To set the stage for the Enabling Bill, Hitler summoned the new Reichstag to meet at the Garrison Church in Potsdam, where Frederick the Great and all the Kings of Prussia were buried. In a bizarre ceremony, replete with religion and national patriotism, Hitler pledged his government to unite the German nation by building upon the traditions of the past. Even hostile anti-Nazis were impressed.
Erich Ebermeyer, whose skepticism we have already seen, described in his diary the Potsdam scene and its impact on himself and his liberal and unsympathetic family˙
And they only listened to it on the radio.
The "Day of Potsdam." A sea of flags in all the streets. We too couldn't opt out. So I get the old black-white-red flag from the World War down from the attic and hoist it. The black-red-gold one [of the Republic], the good old disgraced, betrayed, and never properly respected thing has to go up to the attic in its place...
In the morning a broadcast of the ceremonies in Potsdam. All cleverly done, impressive, spell-binding even, at any rate for the masses. But we too cannot and must not shut our eyes in the face of what is going on. Today and here, the marriage took place, if not for ever then at least for a time, between the masses led by Hitler and the "Spirit of Potsdam," Prussian values, represented by Hindenburg.
How marvelously it's been staged by that master producer Goebbels. The procession of Hindenburg, the Government, and the deputies goes from Berlin to Potsdam past a solid line of cheering millions. The whole of Berlin seems to be on the streets. Government and deputies walk from St Nicholas' Church to the Garrison Church together. The radio announcer almost weeps with emotion.
Then Hindenburg reads his speech. Plain, strong, coming from a simple heart and so presumably speaking to simple hearts. The very fact that there stands a man, who unites in himself generations of German history, who fought in 1866, who was there at the Imperial Coronation in 1871 in Versailles, who became a national hero between 1914 and 1918 from whom no lost battle and no lost world war can reduce his popularity among our peculiar people, whom on the contrary the defeat itself raised to a mythical state of glorification, who then as an old man once more took over the leadership of the Reich and even did so for a second time, and not out of vanity or a hunger for power but undoubtedly from a Prussian sense of duty and now, soon to die, presides over the marriage of his world with the new rising one which the Austrian corporal Hitler, represents.
Then Hitler speaks. It cannot be denied; he has grown in stature. Out of the demagogue and party leader, the fanatic and agitator -- surprisingly enough even for his opponents -- a true statesman seems to be developing. So is he a genius in whose enigmatic soul lie unsuspected and unprecedented possibilities? The Government's declaration is marked by notable moderation. Not a word of hatred for the opposition, not a word of racial ideology, no threat aimed at home or abroad. Hitler says only what they want: the maintenance of the great traditions of our nation, firmness of government instead of eternal wavering, consideration for all the experiences of individual and human life which have proved useful for the welfare of mankind over thousands of years.
Hindenburg lays wreaths on the graves of the Prussian kings. The old Field Marshal shakes hands with the World War corporal. The corporal makes a deep bow over the hand of the Field Marshal. Cannons thunder over Potsdam, over Germany.
No-one can escape the emotion of the moment. Father too is deeply impressed. Mother has tears in her eyes... In the evening, a quiet hour with M. He is completely unmoved by the day's events as if he were surrounded by a thick protective skin. He considers the whole thing simply a put-up job, doesn't waver for one moment from his instinctive dislike. "You've got it coming to you," says the 21 year old. I remain silent, ashamed and torn.
If the Potsdam Ceremony affected even the liberal educated classes, it reassured many Germans who still longed for the glories of the past.
Am I in possession of my mind, am I still myself? What is this Hitler doing to me, to all Germany? We have just returned from the illuminated streets of our city and behind us we have left a jubilant and happy crowd celebrating that German unity about which I wrote so often in my diary and which has been reached now after a thousand years of desperate struggle.
It is like a dream. Class barriers seem to be bridged over. The whole day has been full of a wonderful nation-wide musical program. This Hitler seems to be a fanatic lover of music and arts. And I seriously believe now that we have done an injustice to this man. Certainly, he will not put into effect all the ideas of his book, Mein Kampf. He will also admit the constructive criticism of both the old conservatives and of big business, and even the regrettable laws against our Jewish population will be confined to a few cases. All Jewish World-War veterans and all the older people, as well as Jewish businessmen, will be able to continue their work. Hitler solemnly promised all this to our venerable hero, President von Hindenburg, this afternoon, in the wonderful act of rededication in Potsdam, where the new and the old Germany joined for the great work of a free, happy, and peaceful future.
If there are minor shadows on the clear and wonderful picture, we have to accept them. If Hitler had done nothing else but unite all Germans, he would go down in history as a hero. I even apologized to Marie [his pro-Nazi wife], who is so happy.
Our workers who had to be discharged two years ago are back in the factory. Although we have no particular work for them at the present time, the management has taken them back under the overwhelming pressure of nationwide patriotism, definitely hoping that we shall find constructive work in no time at all. The eyes of these follows were bright. They were not resentful at all, as they told me tragic stories about their unemployment during the past years.
Sometimes, I confess, I still have the feeling that all this excitement and glamour is not genuine, that this is a house of cards which any storm may blow down. Everything has come too suddenly. But Marie implores me to refrain from pessimism in such wonderful moments of national strength and unity. Hitler has offered his generous pardon to all his political enemies -- except the Jews -- and he says that no hatred but brotherly love only will govern the fate of future Germany.
In order to get his Enabling Bill through the Reichstag, Hitler required the votes of either the SPD, the Socialist Party, or the Center, the Catholic Party. The Catholic Church authorities, however, were still hostile to the Nazi Party and their influence with the Center Party was considerable. On 19 March, Cardinal Bertram, the senior German Catholic bishop, issued a confidential statement to the Catholic bishops that "as a result of biased announcements to the effect that the Church will revise its attitude to the National Socialists, Vice-Chancellor von Papen brought up this question during his visit yesterday. I replied that it is for the leader of the National Socialists to revise his attitude."
But Hitler could hold out both a carrot and a stick to the Church. The carrot was the idea of a Concordat a formal treaty between Germany and the Vatican recognizing the rights and property of the Church in Germany. The Vatican had been trying to get such a treaty for years, but had encountered the determined opposition of the SPD. To win over the Catholics and the Center Party, Hitler used his Reichstag speech on 23 March to promise respect for the rights of the Catholic Church and stressed his Government's recognition of the importance of religion:
23 March 1933 Hitler Reichstag Speech
By its determination to carry through the political and moral purging of our public life, the Government is creating and ensuring the preconditions for a truly deep and inward religious life. The political advantages derivable from compromises with atheistic organizations come nowhere near outweighing the consequences to be seen in the destruction of our common religious and moral values. The National Government sees in both Christian denominations the most important factors for the maintenance of our society. It will respect the agreements concluded between them and the states; their rights will not be touched. It expects, however, that our task of a national and moral renewal of our people will meet with similar appreciation from their side. The Government will treat all Denominations with objective justice. It can never, however, condone the idea that membership of a given denomination or race can be regarded as absolving any person from common legal obligations or as a license to commit or tolerate crimes without punishment. The National Government will permit and guarantee to the Christian denominations the enjoyment of their due influence in schools and education. Its concern will be for the sincere cooperation of Church and State. The struggle against a materialist ideology and for the establishment of a real national community is in the interests of the German nation as much as of our Christian faith....
The stick which Hitler could brandish was intimidation of Catholic civil servants. The following document, written shortly after the event, catches the dilemma facing the Center Party deputies who met to discuss how to vote on the Enabling Bill. The distinguished historian of the Center Party, Karl Bachem, summed up their uncertainty over the Bill. It is an admirable summation of the impossible situation in which Catholic politicians found themselves as they caucused to decide on whether or not they would support the Enabling Law.
Was this vote right? This may be doubted, though only future developments will make a definite judgment possible. It was certainly in the spirit of the call for unity which Kaas had sent out weeks ago on 17 October 1932 in Mnster. It may also be said that the law would have been passed even if the Center had voted against it or abstained. If the Center had voted against it, it would, given the current mood of the National Socialists, probably have been smashed at once just like the Social Democratic Party and the Italian ˙Partito Popolare˙ [the Catholic party dissolved by Mussolini a few years before.]. All civil servants belonging to the Center would probably have been dismissed. There would have been a great fracas in the Reichstag, and the Centrists would have made an heroic exit, but with no benefit to the Catholic cause or to the cause of the Center Party. The links between the Center and National Socialism would have been completely cut, all collaboration with National Socialists and every possibility of influencing their policy would have been out of the question. Perhaps, then, it was right to make the attempt to come to an understanding and cooperate with the National Socialists, in order to be able to participate in a practical way in reshaping of the future.
Certainly all this can be said. But what if this attempt fails? What if the National Socialist wave, true to its basic ideological beliefs, wants to engulf our Catholic organizations, our Catholic youth clubs etc., as in Italy? Will not people then say that it was the fault of the Center for giving the Hitler Government a blank check for four years? Will not the Center be so discredited with its followers that it will lose all influence on them and be unable to achieve any thing?
Then again, can it be morally and politically justifiable to grant the Government, whose instincts are so completely different from those principles we stand for, such far-reaching, unique authority? The Center has always been the party of the law, of the Constitution, and also of freedom. What has now happened has nothing to do with law, freedom, and the Constitution. It is true that parliamentarianism and with it the democratic idea have come to a dead end. [Former Chancellor] Brning tried up to the last minute to save parliamentarianism as part of the Constitution; but in vain. It is Hugenberg's fault. But it has really proved impossible. So was it justified to try a new way? Certainly, Hitler has inserted several points in his speech which meet our wishes, to a far greater extent than would have been thought possible, and give us a certain security. But will he be able to stick to this line since many of his colleagues -- Rosenburg, Hugenberg, Gring -- are strongly opposed to Catholicism?
In any case: as in 1919 when we climbed calmly and deliberately into the Social Democrat boat, so, in the same way, we enter the boat of the National Socialists in 1933 and try to lend a hand with the steering. Between 1919 and 1933, this arrangement proved quite satisfactory: the Social Democrats, since they were not able to govern without the Center, were unable to do anything particularly anti-religious or dubiously socialistic. Will it be possible to exercise a similarly sobering influence on the National Socialists now? Quod Deus bene vertat˙ [May God turn it to the good]
It would indeed be a great thing, and if it turns out like that, everyone in our party will praise the present attitude of the parliamentary group. Just as after 1919, when the association with the Social Democrats saved us from Bolshevism. It is enough if cooperation with the National Socialists can protect us against Communists, Bolshevism and anarchy! The latter is very important now. One may say ˙ Prius vivere, deinde philosophari˙ [first live, then philosophize.
First remove the danger of Communism, then everything will sort itself out. In short: in this question too there is no obvious solution. As so often in politics. And in life too! The risk is great, but if one had not run it the danger would have been even greater. For the time being we go along with the new direction of the Center. Whether it is right nobody can say yet. ˙"Qui vivra, verra˙ [Whoever lives, will see].
All splits are dangerous now. As they were before.
With the Center Party in agreement to support the Bill to disperse with the Reichstag, the issue was never in doubt. In the dramatic Reichstag debate, the only speech opposing the Enabling Decree came from Otto Wels, the veteran SPD leader. The scene has been particularly well captured in the recollections of an SPD Reichstag Member.
The wide square in front of the Kroll Opera House was crowded with dark masses of people. We were received with wild choruses: "We want the Enabling Act!" Youths with swastikas on their chests eyed us insolently, blocked our way, in fact made us run the gauntlet, calling us names like "Center pig", "Marxist sow". The Kroll Opera House was crawling with armed SA and SS men. In the cloakroom we learned that [former SPD Minister of the Interior] Severing had been arrested on entering the building. The assembly hall was decorated with swastikas and similar ornaments. The diplomats' boxes and the rows of seats for the audience were overcrowded. When we Social Democrats had taken our seats on the extreme left, SA and SS men lined up at the exits and along the walls behind us in a semicircle. Their expressions boded no good.
Hitler read out his government declaration in a surprisingly calm voice. Only in a few places did he raise it to a fanatical frenzy: when he demanded the public execution of van der Lubbe and when, at the end of his speech, he uttered dark threats of what would happen if the Reichstag did not vote the Enabling Act he was demanding. I had not seen him for a long time. He did not resemble the ideal of the Germanic hero in any way. Instead of fair curls, a black strand of hair hung down over his sallow face. His voice gushed out of his throat in dark gurgling sounds. I have never understood how this speaker could carry away thousands of people with enthusiasm.
After the government declaration, there was a recess. The former Reich Chancellor, Dr. Wirth, [of the Center Party] came over and said bitterly that in his group the only question had been whether they should also give Hitler the rope to hang them with. The majority of the Center was willing to obey Msgr. Dr. Kaas and let Hitler have his Enabling Act. If they refused, they feared the outbreak of a Nazi revolution and bloody anarchy. Only a few, among them Dr. Brning, were against any concession to Hitler.
Otto Wels read out our reply to the government declaration. It was a masterpiece in form and content, a farewell to the fading epoch of human rights and humanity: ÒNo blessing will come out of a peace of violence, particularly at home. It is not possible to found a real Volk community upon violence. The first condition must be equal rights! The Government may, of course, protect itself against flagrant excesses of controversy and it may prevent through serious measures both the appeals to violence and violence itself. But this may be done only if it is done uniformly and impartially in all directions, and if defeated opponents are not treated as if they were outlaws. Freedom and life can be taken from us, but not honor....
At this historic hour, we German Social Democrats pledge ourselves to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and Socialism. No Enabling Decree can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible. ... The Anti-Socialist Laws [of 1878] did not succeed in destroying Social Democracy. From this new persecution, too, German Social Democracy can draw new strength. We send greetings to the persecuted and the oppressed. We greet our friends in the Reich. Their steadfastness and loyalty deserve admiration. The courage with which they maintain their conviction and their unbroken confidence guarantee a brighter future."
Otto Wel's conclusion, spoken with a voice half- choking, recognized all those innocents ... who were already filling the prisons and concentration camps simply on account of their political creed. The speech made a terrifying impression on all of us. Only a few hours before, we had heard that members of the SA had taken away a 45 year-old welfare worker in Kpenick, carrying her to a National Socialist barracks, stripped her completely, bound her on a table and flogged her body with leather whips. The female members of [Reichstag Representatives] were in tears, some sobbed uncontrollably.
But Hitler jumped up furiously and launched into a passionate reply. When the Social Democrats were in power, the National Socialists had been outlawed. Anyone who bowed down before an International should not criticize the National Socialists. If the National Socialists had no sense of justice, the Social Democrats would not be here in the hall today. But the National Socialists had resisted the temptation to turn against those who had tormented them for fourteen years. "You are overly sensitive, gentlemen, if you talk of persecution already. By God, we National Socialists alone would have had the courage to deal with Social Democrats in a different way.... You, gentlemen, are no longer needed. I do not want you to vote for the Enabling Act. Germany shall become free, but not through you."
There was no truth in the assertion that the National Socialists had been persecuted in the German Republic. On the contrary, the movement had frequently been furthered by the State authorities. Only when its members broke the existing laws were they punished, in most cases very mildly. The Communists were made to feel the strong arm of the law in a very different way. We tried to dam the flood of Hitler's unjust accusations with interruptions of "No!", "An error!", "False!" But that did us no good. The SA and SS people, who surrounded us in a semicircle along the walls of the hall, hissed loudly and murmured: "Shut up!", "Traitors!", "You'll be strung up today."
Yesterday an important day for the Reichstag. Indeed, it is the last important day for the German Reichstag for a long time to come. For all intents and purposes, it no longer exists.... By a vote of 441 to 90, the Enabling Decree is passed by the Reichstag. By this new law, the present administration has seized absolute and total power in the country. They can be no doubt of that, and Hitler leaves no one in doubt about it. His government now no longer needs the Reichstag in order to pass any kind of law, indeed no longer needs even a Reichstag opinion. Or as Hitler cynically expressed it, his administration will "from time to time inform the Reichstag of its policies...." The Nazis are now the masters of the German Reich.
24 March 1933 Enabling Decree, or Law for the Relief of the Distress of the People and Nation
The Reichstag has resolved upon the following law which is herewith promulgated with the approval of the Reichstag, having been established that all the requirements for changing the constitution have been complied with.
Laws for the Reich can be resolved upon also by the Reich Cabinet, in addition to the procedure provided by the Constitution of the Reich....
Laws for the Reich resolved upon by the Reich Cabinet may deviate from the Reich Constitution, provided that they do not interfere with the institution of the Reichstag or the Reich Presidency, whose powers will remain intact.
Laws resolved upon by the Reich- Cabinet are issued by the Reich Chancellor and promuló gated in the Reichsgesetzblatt. They will become effective, so far as they do not determine otherwise, on the day following their promulgation....
Treaties of the Reich with foreign countries will no longer require the approval of the legislative bodies. The Reich Cabinet will issue the rules necessary for the execution of such treaties.
This law will become effective on the day of its promulgation. It becomes ineffective on 1 April 1937. Moreover it becomes ineffective if the present Reich Cabinet should be replaced by another.
Although the Enabling Bill had been first suggested by non-Nazi cabinet members who thought it would strengthen their hands against the Chancellor and his Party, its passage soon revealed that the very opposite was true. The cabinet ceased to be a place for genuine discussion. Hitler indicated that each minister should handle his own affairs independent of the whole government. Thus, each minister found himself cut off from his colleagues. Within a few weeks, it was clear that there was no united front anymore. Now that the votes of the partners in the so-called National Concentration coalition were not longer necessary for passage of laws through the Reichstag., the leaders in the Cabinet had little use for each other. Thus, even protests by Alfred Hugenberg, who controlled two Ministries in the Cabinet, received no support from his fellow ministers, but were dismissed with disdain.
3. Outside the agenda: Information from the Reich Minister of Economics, Food and Agriculture (Dr. Hugenberg): The Reich Minister pointed out that recently SA men had arrested chairmen and members of Chambers of Commerce who were listed as members of the German National People's Party. These persons were removed from their positions in an unlawful way. He would no longer tolerate this state of affairs and urgently requested redress.
Reich Minister Gring explained that frequently arrests had been made solely at the request of the competent public prosecutor. Moreover, it was urgently necessary to have new elections for the Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Farmers as soon as possible. The structure of the Chambers no longer accorded in any way with the present political situation. It was therefore impossible for Reich Minister Gring himself to hold back the SA.
The Reich Minister of Economics, Food and Agriculture reported that he had already prepared the reorganization of the provisional Reich Economic Council and that he also wished to order the dissolution of, and new elections for, the Chambers of Commerce and of Farmers. But he had to be allowed a little time to prepare all these things.
Even Goebbels was surprised by how quickly the opposition faded.
The revolution which we have begun continues without interruption. It will not be long now before there are no more political parties, but only the state-supporting and state-responsible National Socialist Movement. What we are now experiencing is only the transferring of our dynamics and sense of laws to the State. It is all happening so fast that it takes ones breath away, one can scarcely grasp it all. It can no longer be a question of building the Party into the state structure; rather, the Party must become the State. Only then shall we gain the solidarity of leadership which Germany, compared to all other States, was so sadly lacking in the past centuries. Thank God that all responsible men absolutely recognize the necessity of this new line of action. The Fhrer himself has a perfectly firm and clear goal to which he is proceeding. And he is dedicating himself to that goal as steadily now that he is in power as he did in opposition.
The entry for this day in his published version is not in the original text. "The Fhrer's authority is now completely in the ascendant in the Cabinet. There will be no more voting. The Fhrer alone decides. All this has been achieved much more quickly than we had dared hope." This interpellation, however, was very accurate.
Yesterday, finished all my work at the ministry. Everything went very well. Cabinet meeting, everything is coming together. Even there, Hitler has completely carried the day.
By the summer of 1933, the political parties were in total disarray. Alfred Hugenberg, after making a fool of himself at the London Economic Conference, found himself deserted by fellow conservatives in the Cabinet, and unable to protect his own DNVP. He was forced to resign his cabinet seats. This should have triggered the fall of the cabinet, because according to Article 5 of the Enabling Bill, changes in the Government of National Concentration would void the powers given to the cabinet under that law. Goebbels exulted to his diary that no such challenge was raised.
Yesterday ... in the cabinet. Hitler announces the fall of Hugenberg. No one cries. The budget is accepted. Hindenburgs' personal affairs discussed. His estate is declared to be free from taxes. ... Later with Hitler. Hugenberg's resignation is the end of him. The reactionary front is dissolving itself. Great jubilation. Now we have the worst days behind us. The Revolution can go its way. Home very late. Today to Stuttgart. What a joy it is to be alive. Papen is off to Rome, Concordat discussions.
The last line refers to a new development. Talks with the Vatican might work to undermine even the powerful Center Party, whose voters had remained remarkably loyal to the Church leadership. The German Bishops, however, in response to Hitler's Reichstag speech of 23 March, had decided to attempt a reconciliation. As a result, German Conference of Bishops issued the following statement just after the Enabling Bill was accepted.
During the last few years, the Bishops of the German dioceses, in their dutiful concern for the Catholic faith and the protection of the tasks and rights of the Catholic Church, have, for good reasons, adopted towards the National Socialist Movement a negative attitude, expressed through prohibitions and warnings, which were to remain in force for as long as, and as far as those reasons remained valid.
It must now be recognized that public and solemn declarations have been issued by the highest representative of the Reich Government, who is simultaneously the authoritarian leader of that movement, which acknowledge the inviolability of the teachings of the Catholic faith and the immutable tasks and rights of the Church. Similarly, the full validity of the treaties concluded between the various German states and the Church is guaranteed. Without revoking the condemnation of certain religious and ethical errors, as contained in our previous statements the Episcopate nevertheless believes it can cherish the hope that those general warnings and prohibitions need no longer be regarded as necessary.
Catholic Christians, for whom the opinion of their Church is sacred, need no particular admonition to be loyal to the legally constituted authorities, to fulfill their civic duties conscientiously, and to reject absolutely any illegal or revolutionary activity. The admonition, which has so often been solemnly addressed to all Catholics, namely to stand up for peace and the social welfare of the nation, for the protection of Christian religion and morality, for the freedom and rights of the Catholic Church and the protection of the denominational schools and Catholic youth organizations, is still valid.
If even the Bishops decided to forsake their long-term opposition, it is not surprising that the rank and file of the Center Party were confused by the new developments. Many were now caught up in patriotic enthusiasm. Historically a persecuted minority in many parts of Germany, it is not surprising that some Catholics were anxious to prove their loyalty, especially because in doing so they were only faithfully following the examples set by the Bishops' Conference.
As in the August days of 1914, a feeling of national and German emotion has seized our people. The status quo has been overthrown and new objectives have been set for a new, developing German nation and a new German state. Regrettably, the Catholic leadership and Catholic elements have been as little involved in this change as they were in the foundation of Bismarck's Reich. Thanks to the warning summons of Adolf Hitler and his Movement, and to his work, we have succeeded in breaking through the un-German spirit which prevailed in the revolution of 1918.
Now the whole German nation in all its various parts, including Catholics, has been summoned to cooperate and to build a new order. At this critical moment, Catholicism must not once again stand aside, adopting a wait-and-see attitude. We will lend a hand to help with the construction of a new Reich and a new nation, putting our trust in the leader of the German and Vlkisch Movement. If an appeal is made to our natural and true impulses and to all groups that comprise our historic nationality in its totality, the Catholic element cannot be dispensed with. Over the past centuries, it has become our destiny for the German to grow out of both Catholicism and the national characteristics of the German race. After a period of decline, we now have the duty of participating in the reorientation towards a rise and a renaissance. We must -- and here we agree completely with the leader of the national movement -- we must first become an internally unified nation of German men and women. We must put aside everything which divides us and shake hands across the barriers which have hitherto been overemphasized, in order once more to become a nation which believes in honor, cleanliness, and loyalty. The essence of the practicing Catholic population, as embodied in associations, professional groups, and life-styles, is coming to the fore in order to consider what specific Catholic contribution can be made to the national task.
Meanwhile, Vice-Chancellor Papen was negotiating directly with the Vatican, securing some important concessions for the new Government of National Concentration.
Yesterday ....Ate lunch with Hitler. Papen has arrived at a Concordat with the Vatican. But watch out! He himself is little more than a Church lackey! ... At night visited Hitler. He told tales about the war. No one can be so entertaining in his stories.˙
Others in the Cabinet and the party shared Goebbels' apprehension about the recognition of the Papacy to protect Catholic rights in Germany, but Hitler was jubilant. For him, the important point was political.˙
The Reich Chancellor saw three great advantages in the conclusion of the Reich Concordat:
1. that the Vatican had negotiated at all, considering that they operated, especially in Austria, on the assumption that National Socialism was un-Christian and inimical to the Church;
2. that the Vatican should have been persuaded to bring about good relations with this purely national German State. He, the Reich Chancellor, would even a short time ago have thought it impossible that the Church would be willing to commit its bishops to the support of this State. The fact that this had now been done was certainly an unreserved recognition of the present regime;
3. that, with the Concordat, the Church has withdrawn from activity in associations and parties, and, for instance, has abandoned even the Christian labor unions. This also the Reich Chancellor would, even a few months ago, have thought impossible. Even the dissolution of the Center Party has been insured for by the terms of the Concordat, the Vatican has ordered the permanent exclusion of the clergy from party politics.
The objective which he, the Reich Chancellor, had always striven for, namely an agreement with the Curia, has been attained so much faster than he had imagined even on 30 January. This was such an indescribable success and in the face of that fact, all critical misgivings should be withdrawn.
Even before the Concordat was officially signed, Hitler's tactics paid off: the Center Party dissolved itself. Particularly enlightening on that event is the following private memorandum by Karl Bachem, a Reichstag Deputy and historian. Written in the summer of 1933, this document shows primarily the feeling of impotence, which we have already noted in the diary of Erich Ebermayer.
So the Center has been formally dissolved by its own resolution! It is said that Brning was strongly against. But concern for the Catholic civil servants was decisive. Brning had wanted to wait for the Government to dissolve the Center Party [as it had abolished the SPD on 23 June], which would insure that the Center Party need not bear any responsibility. The same with the Bavarian People's Party. All political activity in the spirit of the old Center Party is from now on impossible and "forbidden." It has been quite openly declared that any further attempts at such activities will be crushed by brute force.
This is indeed a terrible fate, hardly conceivable for a party with such an honorable record of more than sixty years' achievement. One can do nothing but succumb patiently and meekly to this decision of Divine Providence; even if this time it seems hard, very hard.... No wonder that particularly the younger, lively members of the Party are terribly upset and use harsh words accusing Brning, Kaas and all the other leaders of having helped to bring about the downfall of the party through their inactivity and cowardice. But what in practical terms could Brning and Kaas have done? Would it have been of any use to call on the Catholic population and the whole Center Party to offer united resistance? Such resistance would have at once shown up the physical powerlessness of the party and would have been brutally suppressed; the leaders would have immediately been taken into "protective custody", and thereby have been rendered harmless. The Bishops, having voted unanimously for the recognition of the new government, such resistance, no longer morally defensible, would have been impossible for us. There is nothing left to do but to follow the example of the Bishops and, in spite of everything, continue to try and remain concerned for the protection of our religious interests within the National Socialist Party and in cooperation with it. Nothing else is now possible. All our large organizations have been destroyed. Even the apprentices' associations have been deprived of their independence and coordinated with the "National Socialist Workers' Front."
What will happen now no one can say. In the meantime, the future before us remains extremely black. In practice, we can do nothing but continue to try and work for our religious principles within the National Socialist Party and through quiet cooperation in its organizations. National Socialists, particularly Hitler, have often declared that they want "positive Christianity" as the basis of the State, that they regard the Catholic as well as the Protestant Confessions as "the most important factors for the preservation of our national character." That is something, even if is not yet clear what this "positive Christianity" will be like and what its effects will be. So our people must now act as "leaven," as the "salt of the earth," in order to help the right principles to predominate....
After describing the chronic state of crisis under the Weimar Republic Bachem concludes with a naive anti-Communism which justifies unpalatable Nazi measures without fussing about "legal subtleties."
In short, no more headway could be made with the democratic form of government; there could no longer be any illusions about this. Not with the Center's old principle of seeking improvement in conditions only in a constitutional way, observing regulations and existing laws. If the nation were not to sink into poverty and the life of the state be completely ruined, a different way had to be found to get out of this appalling situation. It was clear that if this were to be done it would not always be possible to observe the letter of the law....
So one could only be grateful to the new men who, with determination, took into their hands the task of saving Germany. It really was not possible to go on any further without force, without using the principle of force, and since the Center, because of its past, could not subscribe to this principle, it could not complain if it were pushed aside. Therefore, it is right to let the new men, particularly the leaders of the National Socialists, go ahead and not put unnecessary obstacles in their way. There are a lot of dubious things in the National Socialist Movement, particularly so far as principles are concerned, but that has to be put up with for the time being. Today there is no point in being fussy about legal subtleties. What matters is first to let a strong, efficient government grow and then to support it wholeheartedly in order to suppress Bolshevism. It does seem as if Communism has become so strong in Germany, so presumptuous, and so self-confident that it is high time to counter it with determination [unless we want] a new Communist revolution and a terrible civil war.
But despite all this, it is hard for the Center Party to disappear without a trace after such a long and honorable activity. In days to come they may say: It had fulfilled its task and could leave the stage of history. But has that task been fulfilled for the future as well? Who from now on will look after the interests of religion, the freedom and welfare of the Church? Are we not now dependent solely on the goodwill of the National Socialist Party? Will the Church keep its rights when no real political power exists to defend them? It is certain that even Catholics loyal to the Church will now join the National Socialist formations in great numbers, just as in Italy. But will their influence there become strong enough to check new animosities against the Catholic Church, especially attacks on our Catholic denominational schools and the schools of our orders etc.? There is to be a Concordat with the Vatican. If the Pope concludes it, he will take the vital interests of the Church into account. But will such a Concordat remain permanently valid if there is no political power to support its validity?...
When intelligent and conscientious political leaders follow such fatalistic thoughts, and when one political organization after another disbanded, it did not really need a government decree to make the NSDAP the sole party in Germany. Although many historians have seen the following infamous decree as the start of the Nazi Dictatorship, such an interpretation does not seem likely. Instead, faced with a huge increase in new membership (often referred to derisively as the "March victims" because they joined after the March elections), many in the Nazi Party feared that some of these new recruits would seek to recreate their old political parties as elements within the NSDAP. So the following decree was really aimed at preventing the Nazi party from becoming fragmented.
The German Cabinet has resolved the following law, which is herewith promulgated:
The National Socialists German Workers' Party (NSDAP) constitutes the only political party in Germany.
Whoever undertakes to maintain the organizational structure of another political party or to form a new political party will be punished with penal servitude of up to three years or with imprisonment of from six months to three years, if the deed is not subject to a greater penalty according to other regulations.
The real force of the Enabling Bill and the self-suppression of the political parties was to eliminate the Reichstag as a legislative organization. Henceforth it served only as a sounding board should Hitler want to give a major speech. Between 1933 and 1945, the German Reichstag passed only seven laws! In place of Reichstag laws, or Emergency Decrees by the President, Germany became ruled by "governmental orders."
Under these circumstances, power would naturally have passed into the hands of the professional civil servants, the trained administrators ranging from Federal bureaucrats down through numerous levels of state, municipal, and county officials. Many of these had long desired a more centralized governmental system, in the belief that they could insure a rational and efficient administration which would restore order to Germany.
But the civil servants who treasured such hopes were in for a major disappointment. During March-April 1933, under the initiative of local party organizations, and with little or no direction from Berlin, many officials in local and regional government were forced to resign and were replaced by Party men. At the same time, a large number of SA "commissars" moved into Government offices at various levels. Their sole claim to legitimate authority was that they were making sure the old civil servants were following the principles of the new regime.
Hitler, Frick (Reich Minister of the Interior) and Gring the Prussian Minister of the Interior) were anxious to purge the Civil Service of politically and ideologically objectionable elements, but at the same time they had to stabilize their new order, and this required the cooperation of an expert bureaucracy. As we have seen, both the federal Government and Nazi party officials encountered great difficulty in controlling local SA and Party organizations. As a result, most state officials soon learned how to look the other way and often accepted local ˙fait accomplis˙ But all these activities threatened the old Civil Service and undermined administrative effectiveness.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service of 7 April 1933 was an attempt by the Government to do two things at once: restore some stability to the civil service threatened by these "wild" local Nazis, and exploit an allegation repeatedly made by the Right during the Weimar Republic that democrats and Leftists had filled the bureaucracy with unqualified people who owed their appointments to the fact that they carried the right party card.
The law give very wide scope for altering and controlling careers, something previously impossible under Civil Service regulations. Thus among other things it was welcomed by many because it facilitated appointments of younger, more energetic administrator, and sawed off much dead wood. Significantly, it did not provide for a deliberate policy of "affirmative action," that is requiring units to hire Nazi members.
1. In order to restore a national professional Civil Service and to simplify the administration, officials may be dismissed under the following regulations, even when the necessary conditions under the relevant law do not exist.
2. The term "officials," as used in this law, means direct and indirect officials of the Reich, direct and indirect officials of the federal states, officials of local government and local government associations, officials of public corporations as well as institutions and undertakings of the same status as these public corporations. The regulations apply also to employees of agencies supplying social insurance, who have the rights and duties of officials.
3. "Officials." as used in this law, also includes officials in temporary retirement.
4. The Reich Bank and the German State Railway are empowered to make corresponding regulations.
1. Officials who attained the status of officials after 9 November 1918 without possessing the requisite or usual training or other qualifications are to be dismissed from the service. Their previous salaries will be accorded to them for a period of three months after their dismissal.
2. They have no right to allowances, pensions, or dependents' pensions nor to the continued use of the official designation, the title, the official uniform and the official insignia.
3. In cases of need, a pension, revocable at any time, equivalent to a third of the normal basic salary of the last position held by them, may be granted them, especially when they are caring for dependent relatives; reinsurance according to the provisions of the Reich social insurance law will not occur.
4. The provisions in Sections 2 and 3 will be applied in the case of persons who come under the provisions of Section I and who had already been retired before this law came into effect.
1. Officials who are of non-Aryan descent are to be retired; honorary officials are to be dismissed from office.
2. Section 1 does not apply to officials who were already in service on 1 August 1914, or who fought in the world war at the front for the German Reich, or who fought for its allies, or whose fathers or sons were killed in the world war. The Reich Minister of the Interior, with the agreement of the competent departmental minister, or of the highest authorities of the federal states, may permit further exceptions in the case of officials who are abroad.
Officials who because of their previous political activity do not offer security that they will act at all times and without reservation in the interests of the national state can be dismissed from the service. They are to be accorded their previous salary for a period of three months after dismissal. From then on, they will receive three-quarters of their pension and corresponding dependents' benefits.
1. Every official must allow himself to be transferred to another office in the same or equivalent career, even to one carrying a lower rank or regular salary reimbursement for the prescribed costs of transfer will be given if the needs of the service require it. If the official is transferred to an office of lower rank and regular salary he retains his previous official title and the official income of his former position.
2. In place of transfer to an office of lower rank and regular income, the official can request to be retired.
Officials can be retired for the purpose of rationalizing the administration even if they are not yet unfit for service. If officials are retired for this reason, their places may not be filled again.
Dismissal from office, transfer to another office and retirement will be ordered by the highest Reich or federal state agency which will make the final decision without right of appeal against it.
A pension will not be granted to the officials dismissed or retired in accordance with Articles 3 and 4, if they have not completed a term of service of at least ten years: this applies also to the cases in which, according to the existing regulation a pension is accorded after a shorter term of service.. ˙
Although it is difficult to establish exact figures for the number of officials who were fired or retired under this new law, its effects were comparatively small. In Prussia, which had been ruled by an SPD-Center coalition since 1919, a systematic attempt had been made to "democratize" civil servants. There, 12.5% of the 1,663 administrative grade civil servants in Prussia were fired about 205 officials and 15.5% were transferred about 260 officials. In the other states 4.5 per cent of administrative grade civil servants were affected. An even smaller percentage of middle and lower-ranking civil servants were were involved.
Despite the relatively small numbers involved, this process had profound results throughout the country. It came to be called "Gleichschaltung˙ a term meaning to synchronize or standardize as is accomplished by a voltage regulator.
At first, the implementation of the law was in the hands of State authorities, enabling them for the time being at any rate to retain full control of personnel policy, independent of interference from the Party. And in implementing rules by which the civil service should be purged, Gring himself, who had been appointed on 11 April as Minister-President (i.e. Governor} of Prussia, the largest German State, went out of his way to criticize the excesses then going on. This next document of a meeting chaired by Gring reveals not a determined Nazi plan to completely reorganize the Civil Service, but an improvisational removal of hostile elements.
Gring in very forceful and impressive words said roughly the following: The Reich Chancellor had asked him to draw up certain guidelines. It was an unusual and extremely important law, therefore only the Minister could make the final decisions. Half a year was hardly enough time to carry out a purge of the administration in Prussia. The[ Italian] Fascist purge law had had lasted two years. ... He particularly wished to point out the dangers to which the law could lead under confined local circumstances, where everyone more or less knew everyone else. A truly strong personality should be able to overcome any feelings of personal hostility or private desires for revenge. "Someone or other who has grumbled about us some time before" may, in fact be a very capable civil servant, and thus he need not be damned just like that.
The carrying out of the law in the individual states [as opposed to the Federal Bureaucracy] was up to the individual governments themselves. The question of how far the Party could be involved depended on the circumstances. But it was very important that in the making of these decisions only such people should take part who were absolutely decent characters, and not themselves candidates for the new vacancies. National Socialists were not immune from human weakness. He was preparing a law for Prussia that every informer who could not absolutely prove the truth of his statements should be punished with the full force of the law.
Civil servants who belong to outlawed parties should be dismissed. But one should take care not thereby to create new Nazi-Party civil servants. This did not of course exclude, in isolated cases, people being appointed civil servants who did not have the proper full training, if this lack of training were made up for by a clear eye for the political situation and a decent character. In this context, the Prime Minister attacked sharply time-servers who often seemed to be more papal than the Pope. It riled him to see how in his own ministry, in which it was well known that more than 60% of the civil servants had been members of the SPD, within a few days swastika badges had popped up out of the ground like mushrooms and only after four days the clicking of heels and raising of hands had become a common sight in the corridors. The Prime Minister gave his full approval to those civil servants who, because of their character and sense of decency, had certain inhibitions about going into the National Socialist Party at this particular moment, and who thus were especially exposed to the pressure and hatred of those who had already climbed on the bandwagon. Such civil servants were, in his opinion, "the most valuable workers" for the new government as well.
The wild "army of commissars" [i.e. local SA leaders and their groups] threatened gradually to undermine and shatter the authority of the State. Yesterday he had abolished these commissars in Prussia. They produced great confusion and caused considerable disruption in private firms. In practice, they had often turned out to be aspirants for directorships, insisting on creating vacancies for themselves. Often they had become a public menace.... In some instances, the Prime Minister had been forced to intervene and protect his civil servants. Attacks by the government press on civil servants should not be allowed. There should be no dismissals on trivial pretexts. If a mayor installed a bathroom in 1927, even if he over spent the budget a little to do so, or if he had given his aunt a lift in his official car, the matter should now be dropped.... Hardly a single large enterprise can be found in which over the decades irregularities have not occurred. There is no point in dragging all this into the open....
The Chancellor had emphatically pointed out that there were two things which must not be overlooked in implementing the new decree: 1. President Hindenburg, and 2. foreign countries.
1. Both the President and the Chancellor wish that, in particular, the withdrawal of pensions should be handled carefully and with a certain generosity. A petty attitude only created hotbeds of hatred and embitterment.... Swamping the President's office with complaints about the workings of the new decree [by people ousted under its workings] must be avoided at all costs.
2. Germany can not simply say we shall do what we like. Our isolation as a country was unique. The Jews were working extremely hard to aggravate it. Therefore we must hit the Jews hard, but we must not give them a chance to attack us as barbarians in places where it could be interpreted the wrong way. A Jew who had contributed something scientifically important for humanity must not be removed; the world would not understand that. The President would examine again the question whether such scientific experts were not exempted as former soldiers had been.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister made the following point with great gravity: "I remind you of the seriousness of the law; you must bear in mind that your signature [of dismissal of an official] is often equivalent to a death sentence. This you must settle with your consciences.... The dismissal, the assessment and the weeding out of individuals must therefore lie only in the hands of men of character.
But from the very start, this limited purge of the Civil Service provoked a strong resentment among Party militants. Many of them simply ignored the guidelines and continued their own warfare against local officials. Others protested strongly to party headquarters. The following memorandum is typical of their demands for a thoroughly Nazified civil service, even at the expense of efficiency and competence.
Among the most difficult tasks which the National Socialist State still has to solve during the next few years is the question of "Party and State." Although the identity of Party and State must be our ultimate aim, the realization of this aim is at the moment a long way off. Anyone who has had the opportunity, on the one hand, of closely following the organization of the Party through all the phases of its development from its beginnings to the seizure of power by the Fhrer and played an active part in its success, and on the other hand then worked in the State apparatus of the new Reich, must unfortunately admit that the influence of the Party on the State and the permeation of the State with National Socialist ideas does not correspond with the sacrifices made by the Movement. The last few months in particular show a considerable decrease in the rate of growth of National Socialist influence upon the State.
The State apparatus, whose character, and particularly whose methods of administration and bureaucracy, represents in itself a certain element of danger for a National Socialist Government with different methods, is still far from making National Socialist ideas its most important tools. This is most strongly pronounced in the behavior of a large section of the representatives of our State, the civil servants. The best gauge for the permeation of a State by an idea is still the appointment policy pursued by that State. Since everyone knows that "men make history," one will be able to tell by the faces of people employed in decisive positions whether they are willing to pull their weight for the new State or whether they have no comprehension of, or sympathy for, National Socialism.... Once again people are beginning to value a person's knowledge more highly than his character. People there are daring to defame old experienced fighters of our Movement, who have been taken into the administration for political reasons, in order to form a counterweight to old, burnt-out and unreliable time-servers! These old fighters are reproached now with lack of knowledge, and urged to learn administrative techniques, whereas in fact these officials are the best guarantee of the thorough permeation of the State by National Socialism.
Very often it would be better if the administrative bosses used old Party warriors instead of falling for those who joined the Party after the March 1933 election [Mrzgefallene].
In part, this is the result of fundamental errors made during the first months in the form of compromises which were probably unavoidable because National Socialism had not yet acquired total control over the State. So now also unfortunate compromises have to be put up with in the filling of posts. But even now there would be time to improve things if a consistent appointments policy were pursued, a policy which would prove particularly productive in the central administration. It must be self-evident for the National Socialist State that the head of a personnel department and the official in charge of personnel in the central administration, who in turn have to be entrusted with the personnel files of their subordinate offices, should be trusted agents of the Party, men who have proved themselves as old Party fighters before the seizure of power....
But circumstances have brought it about that people often fill decisive positions in the state apparatus who are either not National Socialists, or who (though members of the party) have been infected by other ideologies in such a way that they no longer detect a policy that is disloyal to National Socialism. It is therefore particularly important that measures taken by the central authorities, among them their appointment policy, are examined to see whether they are correct from a National Socialist point of view.
Is it possible for a Party member or the representative of the Party within the NS Civil Service Union to report any abuses to the Party leadership and thus act as the eyes and ears of the Party? Unfortunately the answer is No!
As can be seen from the enclosed decree of the Prussian Minister-President of 4 October 1933 and the Prussian Minister of the Interior of 4 August 1933, the NS Civil Service Union is even forbidden to report on un-National Socialist behavior to the Party or to disclose abuses unless the person reporting wishes to expose himself to the risk of disciplinary action....
If the Party were now to ask for a list of the officials in a particular ministry, arranged according to departments and listing the party each had belonged to before the Seizure of Power, and if the contents of that list were ... unfavorable for the party, that person would probably receive official punishment. This state of affairs is completely intolerable, since the Party itself now has no means of control over the execution of National Socialist ideas.
Of course, the authority of the head of the ministry must be recognized. But because of the amount of work involved, it is absolutely impossible for him to be informed about all matters, especially if he is surrounded by the wrong advisors.... There is a great danger that in the near future even National Socialist Ministerial Chiefs will have only a bureaucratic apparatus behind the, whose representatives lack true National Socialist principles. The pillars of the Party in times of need were always the old Party fighters. This must no be under-estimated!!
In a subsequent chapter, we shall examine the wholesale purging of Jewish officials under this same law. Significantly, most lost their jobs through denunciations from colleagues. Indeed, to understand Gleichschaltung properly, we must constantly remind ourselves of how willingly the individual units joined in the process. In a few years, the civil service would admittedly become thoroughly disillusioned by the continual denigration and attacks on their profession (usually with Hitler's barely concealed support), and by constant opposition and subversion from local Party functionaries. But at the outset, many professionals in the civil service were romantically optimistic and thought the Nazis would actually bring an improvement in their occupational calling. Thus they enthusiastically supported drastic purges of their own colleagues. Without this active support, the Nazi leadership would have encountered determined and perhaps fatal opposition to their plans.
The following remarkable memorandum is by Fritz-Dietlof Count von der Schulenburg, a young Prussian aristocrat and junior official in the field administration of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. Although he would eventually become hostile to the Nazi State, and be executed for his participation in the plot to kill Hitler, initially, he was sympathetic enough to National Socialism to join the Party in February 1932.The blend of idealism and dedication found in this document was shared by many young aristocratic intellectuals. It is amazing that they could continue to deceive themselves that their aristocratic models were actually acceptable to Nazis.˙
April 1933 Fritz-Dietlof Count von der Schulenburg Memorandum to Prussian Ministry of the Interior
Reconstruction of the Higher Civil Service
In the period after the Revolution [of November 1918] there was no political concept of the State behind the State itself. The parties ruled and through them the powers which stood behind them the Jews, Capital, and the Roman Catholic Church. The civil servant became a tool of the parties. In fourteen years of party rule, he was continually forced to bend to them and became apart from a few exceptions inwardly a slave. The distinctive character of the civil service disintegrated. The parties had no experience with the value of character. The cream of the parties judged according to the party card or, at the most, on the basis of cosmopolitan intellectualism. There was no longer any specific training for the civil service. The democratically individualistic age saw in the training of civil servants interference in their sacrosanct individual rights. The civil service as an estate died, since it could not survive without the cohesive force of an ideology. The honor of the civil service faded away under the dirt of party rule. ...
The result of this development was: the old Prussian civil service with its magnificent qualities of intellect, character, and ability was shattered. It must be reconstructed on the basis of a completely new spirit. The significance of this reconstruction cannot be overemphasized. The most important thing is the question of selection and recruitment. National Socialist leaders are confronted with the task of forming the State along National Socialist lines. The leaders are political fighters who in many respects lack expertise and knowledge of administrative techniques. The cooperation of the bureaucracy which has expertise and administrative skills is indispensable. The bureaucracy, which for the most part confronts National Socialism without any real understanding, works without enthusiasm, hinders the work and in some areas commits sabotage. The political will of National Socialism must, however, be implemented under all circumstances. The principle of a professional civil service must be recognized; nevertheless, during this transitional phase, one cannot avoid using non-professional civil servants in the posts of
Oberprsident, Regierungsprsident, and Landrat in order to implement the political will of National Socialism; for true political leader-types with a real sense of responsibility and a sure instinct will be able to implement the political will of National Socialism more effectively even on a practical basis than uncomprehending bureaucrats, who sabotage the Government's work. The partial use of non-professional civil servants is, however, conceivable only during a transitional phase. ˙
In a National Socialist state, it is obvious that the State will recruit its new leaders from within the administration itself... The permeation of young civil service recruits with the National Socialist concept of the State is the task of the political leadership. This permeation cannot originate in the universities. It is the task of fanatical political leaders and fighters. "Character" must again be considered the highest value. Faith, character, judgment, and drive are decisive for the quality of a civil servant. The selection must include the biologically best from all classes; it must not remain a privilege of the so-called educated classes. Fighters from the SA, SS, and the paramilitary leagues are to be given priority. The training of civil service recruits must be entirely concentrated on sterling character and will and tested courage. The young civil servant must engage in sports which place a high premium on daring, will, and endurance (flying, mountaineering, skiing, riding, fencing). An essential part of training must lie with the civil service itself which must once again arise as an estate. In this community, the whole of life must revolve round the poles of honor, comradeship, and loyalty. By a process of constant coexistence, and constant shaping, a new type of civil servant must emerge who possesses true fighting spirit and exemplary attitudes. The civil servant of the future must differ from the civil servant of today as much as the Commando leader of the World War differed from the sentry of the Ancien Regime. True responsibility must live again....
The proposed reconstruction of the civil service represents a complete rejection of previous principles. It requires radical, bold decisions. Without such decisions, however, it will be just as impossible to carry through the revolution in the civil service as it will be in the sphere of general State policy. The Liberation of 1813 was only conceivable with an army which had been reconstructed out of a revolutionary spirit. In the same way the Civil Service and the State can liberate Germany and secure it the necessary space for its development only if the Civil Service is reconstructed out of the spirit of the national revolution.
If the purges of the civil service reflect little in the way of a well-thought-out Nazi plan, the changes which the new government brought about in the constitutional structure is even more confusing. Very early in its life, the Government of National Concentration took up the troublesome question of the relationship between the individual German States and the Federal Government. Ever since the start of the Weimar Republic, reformers had urged elimination of some of the administrative duplication, especially because the existing units were historical anachronisms with little or no internal unity and purpose. The short-lived Papen government had essentially ended the independence of Prussia (2/3's of Germany), by placing it directly under the Federal Government, and administering the State by an appointed Commissioner who worked through the various Federal Ministries.
For many years, officials of the Reich Ministry of the Interior had considered the lack of centralized authority to be the major cause of the economic and financial difficulties which the Republic encountered. Many experts blamed the Inflation upon the plethora of democratically -elected local and state authorities, and they argued that all this division of authority unnecessarily hampered attempts to recover from the Depression by creating efficient fiscal planning. Almost every administration during the Republican years had complained about the needless duplication of administrative expenses.
In the economic crisis facing Germany, officials of all political persuasion recommended greater degrees of centralized authority. Thus, they urged the new government to issue the following decree. Once more, had this been only a "Nazi goal," there is no way it could have been implemented in 1933.
The Government of the Reich has decreed the following law which is promulgated herewith:
In all German states with the exception of Prussia [where this process had already occurred], the President, upon the nomination of the Chancellor, will name Federal Commissioners. These Commissioners have the duty to supervise the implementation of the policy decisions of the Chancellor. The following state powers now pass to the Commissioners:
1. The selection and dismissal of the heads of government in the individual states....
2. The dissolution of the state legislative bodies and the scheduling of new elections....
3. The preparation and proclamation of new laws....
4. The selection or dismissal of independent civil servants and judges.
The Federal Commissioner is appointed for the duration of the legislative period of the States. He can be recalled at any time by the President, at the suggestion of the Chancellor....
Votes of no-confidence of the State Legislature against the head and members of the state government are not permissible....
Despite this law, little improvement in administration occurred. Relations became an endemic conflict between the Federal Commissioners and the heads of the State Governments, the Minister Presidents. A typical example was the following clash in August 1933 between Professor Werner, Minister-President of Hesse and Jakob Sprenger, the Federal Commissioner and Gauleiter of Hesse. Both men were fanatic and long-time Nazis; but their conflict was over respective claims to authority:
August 1933 Memorandum of a Meeting Between Minister-President Werner of Hesse, and the Federal Commissioner-Gauleiter Jakob Sprenger
Minister-President Werner: Things have unfortunately not been settled in detail. Because of this it was possible for the State Secretary, when going away on holiday, to tell me that he had appointed Herr Ringshausen as his deputy. That is preposterous. I am the only person who can be deputy and when I go on holiday the State Secretary deputizes for me. Thus the whole thing is fluid and gives rise to misunderstandings which must be removed. Clear lines of demarcation are best: clear lines of demarcation as to the position of the state government in relation to the representative of the Fhrer, the Federal Commissioner, and clear lines of demarcation between the Minister-President and the State Secretary, and between him and the Government. I once told the Fhrer in a conference: Transfer all authority to the Federal Commissioner. Since he rejected this and declared that it did not correspond to the intentions of the Federal Commissioners' Law, a separate head became necessary for the Government. This entailed a demarcation of areas of authority. How far does the power of the Federal Commissioner reach into the state government? A commentary is needed for the Federal Commissioners' Law and for the state governments. Local governments are not simply organs of administration. That is clear from the fact that they have the right of nominating civil servants. In fact, generally speaking, I complied with all requests regarding personnel. In one or two cases I was unable to do so and have freely expressed my opinion on this, as you have repeatedly asked me to do.
Commissioner and Gauleiter Sprenger: Everything that you regard as unsettled, I now regard as settled. From a formal point of view the letter of the law prevails; beyond this the unwritten law of evolution. The Chancellor has declared: "Revolution is dead, evolution has begun." I remind you of the speech of the Fhrer in Berchtesgaden and at the Nrnberg Party Rally. In both speeches the theory of evolution is expressed entirely unambiguously. The Chancellor made a quite definite decision during the Berlin discussion. He refused to be regarded as a court for dealing with complaints and, as you, Herr Minister-President, will remember, he named me, the Federal Commissioner, as your superior. All the things you mention here, based on past legislation, must evolve in this direction. The Party takes precedence and is responsible for political questions. The Government is there to administer. Since the Party began, the Gauleiter has determined political questions . This principle was explicitly mentioned by the Fhrer at the time we took over power. The Gauleiters are the holders of power and as things have developed the Government has also been determined by the Gauleiters. Let me repeat, not for the first time, everybody can express his view like a man. I have never been biased. But if differences of opinion occur, only one person can decide: namely, myself as Gauleiter. And when I have made my decision, there must be no further speculation. Contact with Reich Government offices or the Chancellor is allowed only after consultation with and the permission of the Gauóeiter-Federal Commissioner, not otherwise. For the Federal Government's bodies have no authority over this....
In this fight, Gauleiter Sprenger won, removing Minister-President Werner and eventually combining the two posts of Minister-President and Gauleiter-Federal Commissioner. But in other cases the Federal Commissioners lost out to an ambitious Minister President. In fact no clear pattern of Nazi rule emerged, and the ambiguous relationship of State and Federal Government continued, despite the new law. Part of the chaos of these early months of the Third Reich was the overlapping and questionable authority of so many people.
In October 1933, the German Government decided to leave the Disarmament Conference, and resign from the League of Nations. These dramatic events will be examó ined in a subsequent chapter. The move was extremely popular, and Hitler capitalized on it by scheduling a plebiscite. In turn, this allowed Goebbels to drag out all his propaganda skills to make the plebiscite a vote of confidence in the new government. Erich Ebermayer was a skeptical observer of the campaign.
The election campaign has grown to gigantic dimensions. Yesterday in Weimar, Hitler declared: "If today in Germany there are people who say: we do not choose to enter your community, and we intend to remain as we were to these I say: the day will come when you will be gone, and after you will come a youth, who know no other community but ours."
This sentence seems to have been directed by Hitler to me personally, and at least to myself I must give some sort of answer. Can those of us who choose not to enter his community, who daily find ourselves more despised, more isolated, more cut off from our roots, can we really claim that we will remain as we were? Have we the courage, can we really have the courage to truly believe that? In spite of many hours of despair and doubts I must still return with a loud and decisive "Yes." Although at present everything works against us, although the tide has overwhelmed us and it seems to have washed many of us away I still believe that we can remain as we were! I believe that we who are today so powerless will one day be powerful, be necessary, when the spring floods recede.
What justifies this faith? Nothing at present or at least, not very much. Only a feeling. A feeling that the German people, while they seem to be predestined like no other peoples in the world to fall into error, to worship false gods, to be fooled by every bluff and swindle, are still at the core healthy and true and young, and that in the deepest part of their souls -- which today have been powerfully shaken by terror -- the German people remain a just and decent nation.
When will this people come to its sense? Will we, who do not choose to enter the new community live to witness the return, the purification? That is unimportant. The question is, will the German people have the power to throw off, on its own, this destroyer of the best part of itself, or will it first have to go through a new vale of suffering, perhaps even a second world war, in order then, with foreign help, to rediscover itself? Who can predict or even guess at this today?...
Election day! Through empty streets, wet with fog, the families go to vote, deeply content that by so doing they will, according to the Fhrer 's speech, "prove themselves to be decent Germans." How easy and comforting to be or prove yourselves to be "decent" just by putting a cross on the right side of the ballot....
Now already millions of Yes votes are dropping in the ballot boxes. The most insane kinds of rumors are circulating about violations of the secret ballot. A system of mirrors, some say, has been arranged so that even in the booths, the voter is controlled. Others claim that there is a device in the box so that after the ballots are deposited, those of "notorious" citizens can be separated and inspected later. I am convinced that all these rumors have been started by the Propaganda Ministry itself with devilish cunning, in order to shock the common man. In any case, it has worked brilliantly. Everyone seems frightened for his bread, his freedom, his life, his middle-class comforts.
Mother and I were not hindered in any apparent way as we performed our civic duties. Only a few "Heil Hitlers" rang out in the hall, as we entered the familiar school. The whole supervisory board at our precinct were common people, long inhabitants in our neighborhood and they all have known us for decades. M made it even easier. He wrote "rubbish" all over the ballot in his scrawling hand. That really is the point.
His ballot will probably be counted as "invalid."
40.6 million Yes. 2.1 million No's. A further half million "invalid."
Throughout the election campaign violence from the SA was frequent, and the following documents show the impotence of government officials to stop it.
14 November 1933 Bimonthly Report of the County Office at Aichach, Upper Bavaria
The elections were conducted throughout the county without any disturbances. Participation was very enthusiastic. In the plebiscite, 17,788 voters participated, of whom 17,470 voted "Yes." For the Reichstag elections, 17,776 votes were registered, of which 17,319 voted for the NSDAP. Voter turnout in the County was 99.2%. In spite of legal requirements and in spite of the public notice that the vote was to be conducted by secret ballot, not everywhere was this rule followed, part of the cause for this was doubtlessly the actions of the NSDAP, who in the election campaign had expressed the viewpoint that the true National Socialists did not vote secretly, but publicly. Thus it happened that in Aichach, the majority of the voters did not turn their ballots into the box provided, but [gave them openly] to the Election Commissioners. In Aichach also the Commissioners themselves went out to homes of people who were sick, in order to collect the ballots, and in a few villages, new Election Commissions [composed entirely of National Socialists] were created.And when some individuals dared to vote differently, there were unpleasant scenes.˙
Because there had been five negative vote in the plebiscite last Monday, November 13, between 8 and 9 in the evening, our peaceful and quiet village erupted in tumultuous chaos, perpetrated by apparent SA men in civil clothes, under the direction of SA leader HP. Crying out "Down with traitors to the Fatherland", they paraded through the streets. I hurried down to find out what was happening. When I arrived, I found that all the street lamps had been broken and the town was pitch black. I told my son who was with me to hurry over and replace the bulbs so that the lights could go back on. As this was taking place, HP hurried over to me and said: "The lights must stay off." I repeated my order that they must go on. HP then went back to his people and commanded them to come with him. They gathered before the house of Herr X chanting: "down with traitors to the Fatherland." As a representative of the district police, I then approached the excited crowd and ordered them to keep quiet and to disband from the streets. None moved, so I gave the order a second and then a third time that they should disperse. Then HP called out to his people: "Everyone stand still." As I then began to gather the names of the unruly people, they all ran away, including HP. I was still able, however, to get a few names.
To solve this ongoing chaos, so typical of the kind of problems the Nazis created, high officials in the Federal Ministry of Interior who had long wished to limit the powers of the individual states saw a golden opportunity of creating a bureaucratic power base independent of both the NSDAP's party structure AND parliamentary politics.
Their centralizing ambitions met with the full approval of their Nazi Minister, Wilhelm Frick, himself an old experienced civil servant from the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior. For his own private purposes, Frick wanted to reduce the federal states to a sort of local field administration of his own ministry, yet he did not want to promote into positions of power minor Nazi Party officials from the Munich headquarters So, he and the civil servants prepared a law abolishing Weimar's federal system, subordinating the individual state governments to Reich authorities, which would be staffed largely with non-Nazi professionals.
They were working on this project just as the right moment to introduce it came, following the tremendous victory at the polls. Hitler now agreed to introduce Frick's sweeping organizational reform. Although technically the Weimar Constitution remained in force, this new law removed most of its democratic local autonomy. In effect, this law created the "Third Reich." Surprisingly, it owed very little to Hitler or his chief Nazis.
Gleichschaltung of the Individual States˙
The Popular Referendum and the Reichstag election of 12 November 1933 have proven that the German people have attained an indestructible internal unity superior to all internal sub-divisions of political character.
Consequently, the Reichstag has enacted the following law which is hereby promulgated with the unanimous vote of the Reichstag after ascertaining that the requirements of the Reich constitution have been met:
Elected Legislative assemblies of the individual states shall be abolished.
The sovereign powers of the individual states are transferred to the Reich. The state governments are placed under the Reich government.
The Reich Commissioners are placed under the administrative supervision of the Reich Ministry of the Interior.
The Reich Government may issue new constitutional laws.
The Reich Minister of Interior may administer the necessary legal and administrative regulations for the execution of the law.
It would be a mistake to think that this was the end of it, the creation of a NEW ORDER, for this new law in turn made the Federal Commissioners superfluous. Characteristically, no one proposed eliminating the post of Federal Commissioner. So in violation of all the principles of good administration, all the Federal Commissioners and Minister-Presidents remained locked in conflict. Since the Minister-President of each states was now himself directly under the Reich/Prussian Ministry of the Interior, what was the role of the Federal Commissioners to supervise and implement Reich policy in the states?
Moreover, the new Law actually created a new source of conflict. By subordinating both the Minister Presidents and the Federal Commissioners to the Reich Minister of the Interior (Art. 3), senior Nazi Gauleiters (all of whom had added one or the other of these positions to their own title) now saw their own independence threatened.
The very fact that such conflicts erupted almost immediately indicates once again how State Officials, in this case the Ministry of the Interior, were attempting to set aside the Nazi Party as the power broker of the new German State.˙
9 April 1934 Federal Commissioner-Gauleiter of Brunswick-Anhalt, Wilhelm Loeper, to State Secretary Lammers of Hitler's Chancellery
I am taking the liberty of asking you for your opinion on the following matter: The position of Federal Commissioners seems to me unclear at the moment. Whereas on the one hand, the Federal Commissioner has been appointed by the Reich President and sworn in by him personally, and whereas, as regards salary, he is also on the same level as the Reich Ministers, on the other hand he is subject to instructions from the Reich Ministry of the Interior. With this new law it is now not quite clear whether the Federal Commissioner has retained his old position or whether he has become an authority subordinate to the Reich Ministry of the Interior. Owing to this lack of clarity, there is uncertainty about the actions of the Federal Commissioner. One is often in the position of not knowing whether one is allowed to act independently in accordance with the policy of the Fhrer, or whether one is merely an executive organ of the Reich Ministry of the Interior.
If the old position of the Federal Commissioner is to be retained, the subordination to the instructions of the Reich Ministry of the Interior must be of a purely general character and this fact should be manifest in externals as well. Just as one Reich Ministry cannot give orders to and make requests of another Reich Ministry, but must invite it to do something, the same practice should be observed towards the Federal Commissioner. But in fact the practice has developed of the Federal Commissioner himself (not only his office) receiving orders signed by some minor Berlin bureaucrat and certified by some Chancellery secretary....
I do like clarity in all things. It is in such external matters that one's position is defined for officialdom and for the public. I can very well imagine that the professional bureaucracy is happy to make use of the opportunity of reducing the position of the Federal Commissioner below that intended by the Fhrer. But I also recall the words of the Fhrer during a conference of Federal Commissioners when he declared: "You are the first Federal Commissioners and what you make of this position will determine what it will be in the future." This comment by the Fhrer gives me the right to make this inquiry.
The Minister of the Interior responded forcefully to this challenge to his authority, and insisted upon the letter of the law which acknowledged his legal powers.
If we are to support the idea of a central and unified leadership of the Reich through the Reich Chancellor and the departmental ministers assisting him, who, corporately with the Reich Chancellor, form the Reich Government, then it is impossible to leave differences of opinion between a departmental minister on the one hand and a [local] governor on the other ... to be decided by the Reich Chancellor. On the contrary, the decision of the Reich Minister who represents the Reich Government in his area of responsibility must be accepted by the Federal Commissioner without allowing him a form of legal redress against the decision of the Reich Minister in the field of legislation.
Despite the fact that this interpretation is clearly supported by the law of 30 January 1934 which Hitler had accepted, Frick's appeal was denied. As in so many other cases, apparently Hitler was not prepared to delineate clear lines of authority . This is one of the most important aspects of the new Third Reich
The Reich Chancellor agrees that, generally speaking, differences of opinion between a departmental minister and a Federal Commissioner on the legality or expediency of a Federal Law cannot be referred to the Chancellor for his decision. In the Chancellor's view an exception must be made for those cases which are concerned with questions of special political importance. In the view of the Reich Chancellor such a regulation is consistent with his position of leadership.
From these exchanges, it became clear that as late as mid-1934, tone could not speak confidently of a fully united and Gleichgeschaltete Germany. A similar ambiguity existed about the role of the Nazi Party. From the start, Hitler did not have a clear idea of future relationship for Party and State. In early 1933, with the excesses of local SA groups, the main danger seemed to be that the Party might get out of hand. One suggestion was to integrate the Party within the State institutions. This approach found expression in the following law issued directly after the successful plebiscite of November 1933.
Although many historians have viewed this law as the triumph of the Party over the State, and the final piece in the powerful structure of the Third Reich, a close reading of the wording of the text shows remarkably ambiguity.˙
After the victory of the National Socialist revolution, the National Socialist German Workers' Party is the bearer of the concept of the German State and is inseparably linked with the State. It is a corporation under public law.
The deputy of the Fhrer [Rudolf Hess] and the Chief of Staff of the SA [Ernst Rhm] will become members of the Reich Government in order to ensure close cooperation of the offices of the Party and the SA with the public authorities.
Members of the National Socialist German Workers' Party and the SA (including their sub-ordinate organizations), as the leading and driving force of the National Socialist State, will carry greater responsibilities towards Fhrer, Volk and State. In the case of violation of these duties, they will be subject to special jurisdiction by Party and State. The Fhrer may extend these regulations to include members of other organizations.
Every action, or failure to carry out an action, on the part of members of the SA (including their subordinate organizations), which threatens the existence, organization, activity or reputation of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, in particular any infringement of discipline and order, will be regarded as a dereliction of duty.
Custody and detention may be imposed in addition to the usual penalties.
The public authorities are bound to grant legal and administrative assistance to the offices of the Party and the SA, which are entrusted with the exercise of jurisdiction over the Party and the SA.
The law of 28 April 1933 regarding the authority to inflict penalties on members of the SA and SS is revoked.
The Reich Chancellor, as Fhrer of the National Socialist German Workers' Party and as supreme commander of the SA, will issue the regulations required for the execution and augmentation of this law, particularly with regard to the juridical organization and procedure of the Party and the SA. He will determine the date on which the regulations concerning this jurisdiction will become effective.
By the law, significantly, neither Party nor State could claim superiority to the other. For, while the Party is called "the bearer of the concept of the German State," no legal or institutional application follows. In addition, by placing the Deputy Fhrer (Hess) and the Chief of Staff of the SA(Rhm) in the Federal Cabinet as Ministers, the Party appeared to become subordinate to the State.
The only unqualified gain for the Party in this law was its new right to claim financial support from the State. Even here, however, its budget was now subject to the Reich Finance Minister, however little power the non-Nazi Schwerin von Krosigk, could exercise. Still, the law seems to imply that the State Apparatus was in charge.
Obviously, Hitler was himself unsure of what he wanted the Party to become. At a conference of Gauleiters he seemed to assert that the NSDAP existed solely for propaganda and indoctrination purposes, and to perform auxiliary functions for the State In this speech, Hitler was clearly anxious about political divisions developing within the Party. This important document shows Hitler's characteristic way of handling conflict giving speeches in which he asserts that there is no conflict.
The F hrer stressed: The most essential tasks of the Party were:
1. to make the people receptive for the measures intended by the Government;
2. to help to carry out in the nation at large those ordered by the Government;
3. to support the Government in every way.
Furthermore, the Fhrer stressed that those people who maintained that the revolution was not finished were fools; they did this only with the intention of getting particular jobs for themselves. The Fhrer described the difficulties he had had in filling all the posts with the right people and went on to say that we had people in the Movement whose conception of revolution was nothing but a permanent state of chaos. But we needed an administrative apparatus in every sphere which would enable us to realize National Socialist ideas at once. And to achieve this, the principle must remain valid that more orders must not be given, and more plans must not be discussed than the apparatus could digest; there must be no orders and plans beyond what could be put across to the people and actually carried into effect. The question of the amalgamation of Party and State was of fundamental importance; upon it Germany's future essentially depended.
The Fhrer described our main immediate task as the selection of people who were on the one hand able, and on the other hand willing, to carry out the Government's measures with blind obedience. The Party must bring about the stability on which Germany's whole future depended. It must secure this stability; this could not be done by some monarchy or other. The first Fhrer has been chosen by fate, the second must have, right from the start, a faithful, sworn community behind him. Nobody with his own power base must be chosen! What is vital is that he should have everyone completely behind him from the outset. This fact must be well known, and it will then be clear that there is no point in trying to assassinate him.
Apart from this: Only one person at a time can be Fhrer. Who it is, is not so important; the important thing is that everybody should back up the second and all subsequent leaders. An organization with such inner solidity and strength will last for ever; nothing can overthrow it. The sense of community within the movement must be inconceivably intense. We must have no fighting among ourselves, no differences must be visible to outsiders! The people cannot trust us blindly if we ourselves destroy this trust. If we destroy other people's trust in us, we destroy our own trust in ourselves.
Even the consequences of wrong decisions must be mitigated by absolute unity. One authority must never be played off against another. There must be only oneview, that of the Movement. To work against someone in an official position, who embodies part of this authority, is to destroy all authority and trust completely.
There must therefore be no superfluous discussions! Problems not yet decided by individual officials must under no circumstances be discussed in public. Otherwise this will mean passing the decision on to the mass of the people. That was the crazy idea behind democracy. By doing that, the value of any leadership is squandered. The man who has to make decisions must make them himself and everyone else must back him up. The authority of even the most junior leader is the sum of the authority of all leaders and vice versa.
Apart from this, we must carry on only one fight at a time. The saying, "Many enemies, much honor" should really run: "Many enemies, much stupidity." In any case, the whole nation cannot engage in twelve campaigns at the same time and understand what is involved. For this reason, we must always instill the whole nation with only one idea, concentrate its attention on one idea. In questions of foreign policy it is particularly necessary to have the whole nation behind one as if hypnotized. The whole nation must be involved in the struggle as if they were passionate participants in a sports contest. This is necessary because if the whole nation takes part in the struggle, they also will be losers. If they are not involved, only the leadership loses. In the one case the wrath of the nation will rise against the opponent, in the other against their leaders.
Of course, the average German was unaware of the divisions and conflict within the party. To them, the NSDAP appeared to be a triumphant monolith, which was sweeping everything before it. To a large extent, this outcome is the result of Hitler's brilliant approach to politics. The Big Lie could be employed to persuade people that everything was under control. The whole idea of the "Third Reich" was a created fiction.
Many Germans, of course, found this alleged uniform development appalling. Once again, we return to early 1933.
Yesterday to the theater and afterwards I drove my friend the actor A G and his wife to their home. G has up to now certainly been anything but a Nazi, and yet as he got out of the car I saw that under his coat, on his vest, he wore the Party Badge! I was dumbfounded.
Coolly and calmly he explained that he had no desire to be stood against the wall by the Nazis. You had to cooperate with them, therefore, and it made no difference whatsoever whether your heart was with them or not. And it was certain that the Nazis would not soon simply disappear. Thus we all had the responsibility to cooperate and thereby prevent stupid things from happening.... He could only strongly advise me to become a party member....
For over an hour we sat in the car before his house and discussed the matter. I explained to G why I simply could not do it. Why I would feel I was betraying myself, my youth, my entire being, my honor and my reputation if I now became a National Socialist. Above all, I declared, I did not believe that we "reasonable people" could neutralize the poison of the Nazi movement. On the contrary, I was convinced that they would eventually infect all of us, if we cooperated with them.
Very well, replied G rather annoyed, then I had only myself to blame if the future passed me and my work by. I'll have to risk that, I replied. If all the leading Nazis were as decent and well-intentioned as he claims, then they would have to respect one who remained true to his convictions more than the millions who now changed their beliefs like a worn-out shirt.
We certainly had a sharp falling out, but the fight always remained friendly and good-natured. The worst thing is that G simply does not understand me, and from his point of view as an actor probably can't understand me. He wants to move up, to have a career; he undoubtedly is the most gifted young actor in Leipzig. Why should politics bother him.